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Help stop the spread of flu as the death toll rises

Blog post | 17 May 2019

The number of people who have died from influenza in Queensland may have reached 25, while in South Australia 17 people have died of flu.

To date, there have been more than 12,300 notifications of the flu in SA — about 9 times the cases this time last year.

But it's not just the Festival and Sunshine States that are feeling the brunt of an early start to flu season.

So far in 2019 there have been nearly 43,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu across the country — compared with nearly 59,000 cases for the whole of 2018 — and it's only May.

What can you do about flu?

If you're unlucky enough to catch the flu, it's vital to help protect the rest of the community — particularly those who are more vulnerable to flu-related illness, such as older people, pregnant women and young babies. There are also people with medical conditions that preclude them from getting the flu vaccine.

Besides getting a flu shot yourself and washing your hands religiously, there are a few things you can do to stop the spread of this deadly disease.

Stay at home

If you're experiencing flu symptoms, avoid contact with other people but do seek medical help if you're concerned. If you're not sure whether you should go to the doctor or hospital, call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222, or use the healthdirect Symptom Checker.

Don't take public transport

Unless you absolutely have to, it's best to stay off buses, trains and ferries while you have the flu. The virus can survive in droplets in the air for several hours and on hard surfaces for about 24 hours, which can infect other passengers.

Consider a humidifier

While humidity is not the only factor in flu outbreaks, dry, low-humidity air promotes the spread of the flu. Yale University researchers suggest increasing the water vapour in the air at home, school or work with a device called a humidifier.

Swap hankies for tissues

It's good to use reusable products where possible — except when you have the flu (or a cold). Handkerchiefs can store the virus, so opt for disposable tissues. Throw tissues straight in a bin after use.

Isolate your toothbrush

Keep your toothbrush away from family members or housemates so it can't contaminate theirs. After you're well, replace the toothbrush with a new one. Of course, avoid sharing utensils, phones and bedding.

Ask about antiviral medications

If you're likely to suffer complications from the flu, your doctor might prescribe antiviral medication. It won't cure the flu, but if taken within 48 hours antiviral medication may reduce the length of time you're sick, relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.

Don't forget, you're infectious

Although cold and flu medications may relieve the symptoms, remember that you are still capable of infecting others with the flu. You may be infectious for up to 24 hours before you start to feel unwell, and up to 7 days after the onset of symptoms.

More tips and tricks to fight flu

Check out this handy infographic for everyday ways to combat the spread of influenza.

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10 tips to fight the flu - infographic

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