AS A major flu outbreak continues to sweep Queensland, Ipswich health authorities have issued a warning amid predictions the worst is yet to come.
Already more than 50 people in the West Moreton area have been hospitalised with confirmed cases of the flu.
So far this year, there have been about 1450 confirmed flu cases within the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service district, a significant increase on previous years.
Seasonal trends indicate the peak flu season will continue into next month.
WMHHS Public Health Physician Dr Catherine Quagliotto has urged residents to do their part to stem the spread of this, in some cases, deadly infection.
Dr Quagliotto said the number of flu notifications so far this year had increased sharply in recent weeks.
"This season we have seen high rates of confirmed influenza notifications across Queensland and West Moreton is no different," Dr Quagliotto said.
"In the past four weeks alone there have been 1056 confirmed cases - including 56 confirmed influenza hospital admissions - and according to seasonal trends we would expect the peak flu season to continue for a few weeks."
The West Moreton community is being urged to vaccinate against influenza and practice good hygiene.
"Fortunately influenza can be prevented and we ask community members to play their part to limit the spread of flu within the West Moreton community," Dr Quagliotto said.
"The best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu and potentially severe complications is to vaccinate against it each year.
"It's not too late to get your flu vaccine. Vaccines are available from GPs, other local immunisation providers and some community pharmacies.
"As well as being vaccinated, there are simple things you can do to protect yourself and others from flu.
"Practice good hand hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub - this can stop the viruses spreading to you.
"It is really important to stay home when you are sick.
"The flu is really easily spread by an infected person when they cough or sneeze - so cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue then wash your hands.
"The virus can also remain active on hard surfaces such as door handles or railings for up to 24 hours. Cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly, such as door handles, taps, tables, benches, and fridge doors using anti-bacterial household detergent can reduce the spread.
"Anyone with flu-like symptoms should stay away from work or other public areas to reduce the spread.
"You can be contagious for up to five days after the first symptoms and we recommend that you do not go to work or school until you have recovered from your illness."
The flu season increases demand for services at hospitals across the state every year.
WMHHS Acting Chief Operating Officer John Burns said West Moreton staff had risen to the challenge of providing safe care during a time high demand period.
"This is always a busy time of year, not just from people suffering from the flu, and staff from our emergency departments and across the wards have met the challenge again providing safe care for the community," Mr Burns said.
"We urge the community to always consider the urgency of your need for medical help and remember to only attend an emergency department if you have an emergency."
For more information visit: http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/8/118/82/Influenza-The-Flu
Vaccination is recommended for anyone aged six months and older. A free vaccine is available for those individuals at greatest risk of severe flu. They are:
- pregnant women during any trimester
- adults aged over 65 years old
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years old and over
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to 5 years old
- individuals over 6 months old with medical conditions predisposing them to severe flu.