Fighting the Flu

In 2017, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services received over 48,200 cases of reported influenza across the state, with Ballarat health workers recalling it as one of the most significant flu seasons in memory.

Older people are among the most vulnerable during flu season, so preparations are underway at Ballarat Aged Care to give its residents the best chance of avoiding the virus and minimising its severity.

Executive Director of Ballarat Health Service’s Aged Operations, Jodie Cranham, said Ballarat Aged Care takes flu season very seriously and is committed to doing everything it can to prevent residents from contracting the virus, which can be life threatening.

“Last winter was the most significant flu season I can remember, with an increased number of reported cases across all age groups”, Jodie said.

“We felt the impact of this at Ballarat Health Services, with significant numbers of people presenting at the hospital with flu like symptoms. While anyone can contract influenza, it can have a severe and even life threatening impact on those most at risk, including children under 5 years of age, adults over 65 years of age, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women and residents of aged care facilities.”

“As a community, we need to start taking flu season seriously, and protecting ourselves and our loved ones by getting vaccinated. The vaccine can help to prevent and minimise symptoms of the flu, and can also reduce the likelihood of other complications, such as pneumococcal pneumonia, which left many influenza patients hospitalised in 2017.” 

“From an aged care perspective, we will be offering the vaccine to all residents and staff in our homes in order to give them the best chance of good health over winter. Our highly trained staff and around the clock registered nurses are on high alert for any signs or symptoms of influenza in our residents, which can develop rapidly and present quite differently in older people. Families can feel at ease knowing that we have highly trained and qualified nursing staff available on every shift to look out for their loved ones.”

“Families and friends can help us keep their loved ones safe by phoning the nursing staff to discuss any planned visits if they are feeling unwell, have symptoms of influenza or have been in recent contact with anyone who has symptoms of the virus,” she said. 

Influenza is a highly infectious virus, which spreads through droplets caused by sneezing or coughing. Symptoms develop rapidly, one to three days after contact with an infectious person. Individuals are infectious for three to four days after infection and may transmit the virus one to two days before the onset of symptoms.

Influenza can be prevented, or the severity of the illness reduced, through immunisation with the current vaccine each year.  Vaccine is available free of charge to those 65 years of age or over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders 50 years of age or over and 15-50 year olds considered to be at high risk of complications and death, pregnant women and people with a medical risk factor.

If there are suspected cases of influenza in an aged care facility that you visit, you can reduce the risk of infection to yourself and others by:

- Receiving your annual Influenza vaccination.

- Delaying your visit until the residents are well, but if you choose to visit then;

• Using the alcohol based hand rub or washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you enter a resident’s room;

• minimising physical contact with the residents and staff;

• covering your mouth if you cough or sneeze;

• keeping your visit short;

• only visiting one resident each time you visit; and

• using the alcohol based hand rub or washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water as soon as you leave the resident’s room.