Status:
Resolved
Health alert:
120007
Date Issued:
24 Jul 2012
Issued by:
Dr Rosemary Lester, Chief Health Officer
Issued to:
All residential aged care facilities

Key messages

  • Victoria has seen a rise in influenza cases in the past few weeks. There have been 1,357 cases this year compared to 719 for the same period in 2011.
  • Influenza can have severe consequences for residents and staff in aged care facilities.
  • Vaccination for staff and residents is an effective way to reduce risk of infection.
  • Vaccination is free for anyone over 65.

It's not too late for a flu vaccination!

The 2012 influenza season is here, with an increase in numbers confirmed across Australia.

In Victoria we have seen a rise in cases in the past few weeks as well as an increase of respiratory outbreaks in residential aged care facilities. The arrival of the influenza season is a timely reminder for your facility to put in place protective measures, particularly influenza vaccination, in order to protect your residents and staff.

What is the current situation with influenza?

More than 10,000 cases of influenza have been reported nationally so far this year. In Victoria there have been 1,357 cases of influenza for the same period. This compares to 719 cases for the same period in 2011.

Influenza in aged-care facilities

Influenza is a significant public health problem, especially in older people and in those with underlying chronic disease. In closed communal settings, such as residential aged care facilities, outbreaks of influenza can have severe consequences. A large number of residents can be affected, with some cases being fatal. Often staff can also be affected, resulting in work absence and significant staffing pressures.

Vaccinating both staff and residents is an effective measure to reduce the risk of infection. When an outbreak does occur, the number of residents affected and the severity of complications can be reduced by rapid diagnosis and early intervention. These include infection control measures and use of antiviral agents. Communicable Disease Prevention and Control staff are able to assist with advice on these interventions.

Therefore, to effectively control influenza in aged-care facilities, we recommend you:

  1. ensure that all residents are vaccinated
  2. ensure that all staff are vaccinated
  3. contact the Communicable Disease Prevention & Control (1300 651 160) early about suspected outbreaks of influenza.

A suspected outbreak of influenza is three or more cases of influenza-like illness (cough, fever, sore muscles, tiredness or prostration) in a facility during a period of 72 hours.

Please note that influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are available free of charge for all persons aged 65 years and over.

Prevention/treatment

In addition to vaccination of residents and staff, prevention includes:

  • hand hygiene and respiratory/cough etiquette
  • early treatment for people at risk of severe disease
  • symptomatic staff should not attend school, work or public gatherings until well.

Contacts

  • Communicable Disease Prevention & Control (1300 651 160) for suspected outbreaks of influenza.
  • Nurse-on-call Tel. 1300 60 60 24