28 June 2024

With coughs and sniffles on the rise, seniors are urged to protect themselves this winter

| Chris Roe
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With colds and flu hitting hard this season, vulnerable community members are urged to take precautions.

With colds and flu hitting hard this season, vulnerable community members are urged to take precautions. Photo: Ridofranz.

We are barely into winter this year but coughs, colds, asthma, flu and COVID are already taking their toll on workplaces, schools and sports teams.

With so much sickness around, the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) is urging vulnerable seniors to make sure they are protected from respiratory illnesses.

MPHN’s Acting CEO Narelle Mills said vaccines were an important way to reduce the risk of serious illness from flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this winter.

“Respiratory illnesses can lead to severe health complications, especially as we get older and our immune system weakens,” Ms Mills said.

“We’re seeing reports that influenza and COVID transmission in the community is increasing, while respiratory syncytial virus remains at high levels.”

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Seniors are often at higher risk due to their age and potential underlying health conditions, and vaccination can reduce the severity of an illness and additional complications.

COVID-19 still presents a significant health risk and free vaccinations are available for everyone 65 years or older and are recommended at least every year and every 6 months for those over 75.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is another common illness that can cause respiratory infections, and older adults are at a higher risk of developing serious complications.

An RSV vaccine is available for people over 60 who may be at higher risk of severe illness. This vaccine is not free, however, your doctor or pharmacist can explain more about the vaccine and advise whether it is recommended for you.

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While the safety measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer mandatory, Ms Mills said that it is important to continue to take precautions.

“In addition, practising healthy habits like regular hand washing and sanitising, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you’re feeling unwell will contribute to reducing the spread of illness,” she said.

Many aged care facilities continue to enforce visitor protocols to protect the health of elderly residents and encourage the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks throughout the season and may be closed to visitors during outbreaks.

For more information about respiratory illness, please visit health.nsw.gov.au/respiratory.

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