Stern virus warning as cases spike

One state is heading for a cold, flu filled winter as rates of influenza sky rocket more than 60 per cent higher in the past seven days. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

One state is headed for a brutal winter, as rates of influenza sky rocket in the last few weeks of autumn.

On Thursday, NSW health Minister Ryan Park told reporters the state had seen a rapid rise of influenza rates across the community in the past seven days.

“We’ve seen in the last week around about a 66 per cent increase in influenza across the community,” Mr Park said.

“We’ve had around 2100 cases of influenza reported, and what we need to do now is make sure the community is getting a vaccination.”

The Health Minister urged members of the public, especially those who are older or more vulnerable to illness, to consider getting their Covid vaccinations at the same time as their flu jabs.

NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park said influenza rates have risen by over 60 per cent in the past week. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

“It is absolutely critical that people understand that Covid is still out and about,” he said.

“We’ve seen around about a 1 per cent increase in Covid cases, just on 14,000 last week.

“The reality is Covid is still out and about among our community.”

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant emphasised the importance of anyone with symptoms of either the flu or Covid to stay at home, and reduce the risk of passing it on to those who are vulnerable.

“Please don’t spread around your germs. Even if you have rapid antigen tests that are negative, please just stay at home.”

“Please just do those simple measures that we’ve put in place for the past few years that we’ve learned so well as a community.”

Dr Chant said children up to the age of 5 were the most at risk from Influenza, and urged parents to get their kids vaccinated.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant reissued calls for residents to get both their flu vaccination and their Covid booster jabs. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

“Our influenza coverage rates for children six months to less that five years, as of May 21, were at 13.5 per cent.

“We’re really aiming to see them well into 30 per cent and, over the next few years, up to around 60 per cent.

“Influenza does hit this age group hard.”

She said there could be a “variety of reasons” as to why residents aren’t leaping to get vaccinated, but didn’t rule out “vaccination fatigue.”

“I think there’s a variety of reasons but I think vaccine fatigue may be contributing to it.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball for what the flu season will throw at us,” Dr Chant said.

“We’ve actually seen quite early flu seasons in recent years and so things are really not in a predictable pattern.”

According to data from the NSW Health department, rates of influenza across NSW topped 1,500 in January this year, in comparison to just 15 in January 2021.

“We know, predictably, vaccination is an effective tool,” Dr Chant said.

“We know how to minimise the spread of viruses, we’ve learned those things about outdoor spaces, wearing masks, not going out when you’re unwell.

“Take those simple measures, and as a community, let’s keep each other safe.”

Dr Chant has also urged residents to continue practices once in place to prevent Covid spreading and apply them to the rise in influenza cases. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short