23 July 2019
By Stephen Wiblin, Head of Clinical Strategy & Development
Australia is facing an influenza epidemic, with a record number of cases already being recorded for most states, and flu experts predicting the death toll will reach 4,000 this year.
While influenza is highly contagious, it is a preventable illness. Given the influenza season is upon us, and the elderly are much more susceptible to it, it is a timely reminder for all of us to be mindful of germs and to brush up on how best to safeguard yourself and your loved ones against it.
There are a lot of misconceptions around influenza, or as it’s more commonly known, ‘the flu’ – so first up let’s get back to basics.
The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness which is caused by influenza viruses, of which there are two main types: A and B. There are many sub strains of flu, which is why immunisation, while effective, does not mean the recipient is 100 per cent protected from immunisation alone.
Some common symptoms of the flu include; fever and chills; cough, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose; muscle aches, joint pains, headaches and fatigue; nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people recover after a few days, however some symptoms may last more than a week and for vulnerable people it can be fatal.
While anyone can get the flu, people aged 65 years and older, along with children under five and pregnant women have a higher risk of complications from influenza infection, therefore it is imperative that anyone entering an Allity home takes the necessary precautions to keep our residents safe and healthy this flu season.
At Allity all suspected cases of the flu are taken very seriously.
Our homes have strict protocols in place to contain any outbreaks. These are both preventative and responsive to infection. Each home has the following measures in place:
Outbreaks of the flu affect many residential care facilities across the country every year. There are measures you can take before entering an aged care home to ensure you and your loved ones are kept as safe as possible this flu season.
1. Get a flu shot, and encourage your loved ones to do also
The annual influenza vaccine is available each year for anyone aged six months and over and it is most effective if done before winter arrives. Immunisations can be done at doctors’ clinics and various pharmacies and many people are eligible for free vaccines under the National Influenza Vaccination Program, to check your eligibility, click here.
2. Sneeze into your elbow
The NSW Department of Health recommends people with the flu to sneeze into their elbow, cover their face with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and make sure all dirty tissues are thrown in the rubbish.
3. Clean your hands
Washing your hands thoroughly and often is an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Department of Health guidelines advise washing hands for at least 10 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing and nose blowing. All Allity homes have mobile alcohol-based hand rub stations throughout and we encourage all residents, staff and visitors to use these.
4. Stay home if you’re sick
If you are unwell with the flu, or suspect you may have the flu, keep yourself at home and avoid close contact with other people, especially people more likely to get severely sick with the flu, which includes the elderly. Wait for at least 24 hours after the fever resolves to ensure it is unlikely the virus will spread.
Health NSW: Influenza factsheet
Health NSW: Residential care facilities and influenza
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