THE Wimmera has experienced one of its worst years for influenza on record, with four times the number of cases than the year before.
Department of Health statistics show in the Grampians region there was 1317 cases of influenza in 2017.
This was up from 325 cases in 2016 and 362 cases in 2015.
Western Victorian Primary Health Network medical adviser Jane Opie said changes to the disease and the vaccinations available led to the massive increase in cases.
“The main reason was a big shift in the actual virus that causes influenza,” she said.
“The vaccine didn’t adequately cover one strain of the virus.
“The vaccine never gives people 100 per cent coverage against influenza as this particular virus is good at changing, but last year it was particularly bad.”
Dr Opie said vaccination rates were also down on previous years.
“Our rates are really not great,” she said.
“We need to promote vaccinations more, particularly for the elderly and anyone with a chronic health condition.
“It is also important that pre-school children get vaccinated, as they are often at day care and can spread the virus through the community.”
Horsham Rural City had 34 cases of influenza in 2017, up from 20 in 2016 and eight in 2015.
Yarriambiack Shire had 25 last year, up from 11 the year before; West Wimmera Shire had 33 cases, up from one; and Northern Grampians Shire had 27 cases, up from four.
Dr Opie said the health industry now needed to look at ways to improve vaccination rates.
“We need to find new ways to target at-risk groups,” she said.
Dr Opie said there were two ways to prevent the spread of influenza – vaccinations and isolation.
“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against this contagious and potentially serious disease,” she said.
“However, people also need to ensure that if they have influenza, they aren’t in contact with others.”
“Children need to stay home from school or day care and parents should not go out.
“Most people don’t need to seek medical attention if they have influenza.
“However, if they do have to go to the doctors or to a hospital waiting room, they should wear a mask and use an alcohol-based hand rub so they don’t spread the virus to other people in the room.”