Get ready for arrival of flu, hospital warns

HEALTH authorities are urging the public to prepare for the influenza season with fears it could be as severe as the one experienced in the northern hemisphere.

The West Moreton Hospital and Health Service predicts the H1N1 and H3N2 flu strains will be prevalent this winter.

Last year the West Moreton health region recorded 652 cases of flu with 64 people hospitalised.

AMA Queensland president Dr Alex Markwell said the indications were the flu season had the potential to be strong.

"Australia's influenza cycle generally follows the northern hemisphere, which has seen a particularly bad flu season over the past few months," Dr Markwell said.

"It is too early to say conclusively if Australia's 2013 flu season will be worse this year. However, we've already seen twice as many notifications than average over the last five years.

"Influenza is always serious as it can lead to life-threatening complications such as pneumonia which can be fatal as already witnessed in Australia this year."

Dr Markwell said those most at risk include the elderly, young children and anyone with an already compromised immune system.

"Given the deaths we have seen already this year prior to the availability of the influenza vaccination we strongly encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated as soon as possible."

A West Moreton Hospital and Health Service spokesman said the strains in circulation could be deadly.

"The current circulating strains are similar to strains we have seen before and include H1N1 and H3N2. It is important to remember that influenza can be potentially deadly irrespective of the strain," the spokesman said.

"That is why it is recommended that people speak with their GP about their individual risk. In particular the elderly, pregnant women and those who have underlying medical conditions are more at risk of serious complications."

Dr Markwell said the best defence was good hygiene, covering your mouth and nose with tissues to cough or sneeze, washing hands (with a sanitiser) and avoiding contact with sick people.

To reduce the spread of illnesses AMA Queensland recommends you stay at home while sick and particularly avoid visiting areas such as residential aged-care facilities, childcare centres and hospitals.

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