With August traditionally the worst month for influenza on the Far North Coast, the Northern NSW Local Health District is urging residents to consider vaccination against this year’s flu. Each year up to one-in-five people in NSW get influenza, with between 800 to 1000 residents across the State dying from flu-related illnesses. Vaccination is FREE for those in high-risk groups including those with chronic conditions, the elderly, pregnant women and Aboriginal people. The North Coast Public Health Unit, which covers the area from Laurieton in the south to the Queensland border in the north, has received 393 flu notifications in the first six months of this year including 174 notifications in June. Director of North Coast Public Health, Paul Corben, said the flu season was expected to peak in the coming weeks. “Now is a good time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so,” Mr Corben said. This year’s flu vaccine covers the four influenza strains circulating in Australia. “Flu vaccination is free for higher-risk groups including pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions – such as severe asthma, diabetes or heart disease – and Aboriginal people aged six months to five years, or over 15 years,” Mr Corben said. “Vaccination is the best protection against seasonal influenza. Those eligible for a free vaccine should make an appointment with their local doctor as soon as possible. Other people can see their GP or chemist.” People are encouraged to visit their family doctor first, or talk to their pharmacist if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms and to stay home to recover to prevent the spread of infection to others. You can also use HealthDirect on 1800 022 222. This service is available day and night and will connect you with a health professional who can provide safe and practical healthcare advice.