Miss hugs? There’s another benefit apart from avoiding COVID
A BOWEN pharmacist has explained why he believes the region will have a less severe flu season this year, as cases in the health region are tracking well below the mean for this time of year.
The Mackay Hospital and Health Services region, which covers the hospitals in Bowen, Collinsville, Proserpine and Mackay among others, has recorded 173 lab-confirmed cases of influenza so far this year.
That number is down from the mean number of cases usually seen in the health region by this time of year, which is 257 confirmed cases.
According to Queensland Health data for the Mackay health region, no new lab-confirmed cases have been recorded in the past four weeks.
The flu season usually runs through the winter months and can extend out to September or October.
LiveLife Pharmacy Bowen Healthcare pharmacist Craig Lawler said he hoped the measures residents were taking to avoid coronavirus would also help keep flu cases at bay.
"I think the season will be a bit better given people's hand hygiene and social distancing," he said.
Mr Lawler said the flu numbers could also be bumped up by travellers, but noted this year would bring less visitors due to COVID-19.
He still urged community members to get the flu vaccine, which is now fully stocked after a shortage earlier in the year.
Mr Lawler said getting vaccinated was the best way to be protected as influenza could lead to complications for vulnerable people, such as those with existing chronic health conditions or children under the age of five.
These complications could include pneumonia or cardiac conditions.
Mr Lawler suggested all people, especially those who had close contact with others who were vulnerable, such as elderly parents or those who lived with diabetes, get vaccinated.
It would not only help those they know are vulnerable, but also the wider community.
"Get it as soon as possible, the flu season is already upon us," Mr Lawler said.
"If the majority of people get vaccinated then it can create herd immunity.
"If they have any queries or concerns then talk to a pharmacist or doctor."
The flu vaccine takes two weeks to be effective.
Some community members are eligible to get a free flu shot through the National Immunisation Program Schedule.
This includes children aged six months to five years, adults aged above 65, people with certain medical risk factors and pregnant woman.
For more information about eligibility, click here.