The deadly impact of “the flu” and the vital need for vaccination, particularly in rural and remote aged care facilities, is one of the poster presentations planned for the 14th National Rural Health Conference.
Presenter Clinton Gibbs, of the Mid North Coast Local Health District points out that the significant public health problems created by influenza are often overlooked, and yet it was only a century ago when two separate waves of the Spanish Flu epidemic were estimated to have killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, 12,000 in Australia alone.
Generally, it is the young, those with chronic illness and older people who are most affected by the disease. According to a 2014-15 NSW Government Health report, 223 residential aged care facilities reported flu outbreaks resulted in a total of 3,382 cases, 404 hospitalisations and 158 deaths across the state.
People living in rural and remote Australia are more likely to be impacted by such diseases primarily due to factors such as age, level of infirmity and with more financial constraints.
Vaccination is considered one of the most effective measures for reducing the risk of infection and as part of the National Influenza Vaccination Program, these are available free to those aged over 65. Take-up rates are critical to the success of such campaigns and, along with the direct health implications, work absences and staff leave as a result of those contracting the illness further add to the pressures in these areas.
This topical presentation and many others relevant to the rural and remote health sectors will be on display throughout the Conference in April.
More information is available at http://www.ruralhealth.org.au/14nrhc