New influenza toolkit released as flu cases rise

Due to Covid-19 safety measures like social distancing and proper hygiene practices, influenza numbers were low in 2021 – but that is now changing. Photo: Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

By TILEAH DOBSON          

With winter underway and people bundling up from the cold, the flu season is upon us. And while influenza cases were at a record time low last year, Australians are being warned to not let down their guard.

Thankfully, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has created a useful toolkit to assist general practices (GPs) to keep their patients and team safe during the winter.

Dubbed the Winter Planning Toolkit, it provides information on infection prevention and control, protection and planning in the workforce, patient management processes, cross-contamination risk management and the health and wellbeing of staff.

Despite Covid-19 measures reducing the transmission of the influenza virus, RACGP President, Adj. Professor Karen Price, is encouraging GPs to use the toolkit due to an upswing in influenza.

“The flu is back and, after two years free from the virus when our borders were slammed shut, rates are rising in communities across Australia. Many people are reporting that strains currently circulating are making them sicker for longer than has been the case in the past,” she said.

“There is no need to be unduly alarmed; however, there are important steps practices and patients can take to limit the spread of the flu. That includes getting vaccinated and remembering all those things we learnt about during the pandemic such as sneezing or coughing into your elbow or wearing a mask if sick.

“Winter is upon us, and we must be prepared.”

The seven modules available in the toolkit go into further detail on matters from vaccination to providing care for priority populations, such as those in aged care and others who are immune-compromised.

Seeing how detailed and readily available the toolkit is, Price is optimistic about how much support GPs across the country have in fighting influenza.

RACGP President, Adj. Professor Karen Price (pictured), hopes the toolkit will support GPs through this flu season Photo: Mark Coulton MP/Facebook.

“I urge even the most experienced of GPs and general practice teams to consider how this toolkit can help them,” she said.

“For example, it helpfully outlines possible approaches practices can take when delivering flu vaccines during the pandemic. The RACGP continues to push for patients to receive flu vaccinations from their regular GP to reduce fragmented care – we are a one-stop shop for all vaccines.

“However, people who are particularly vulnerable to severe effects from the flu must not be invited into unprepared clinics to receive their flu vaccine. Instead, the resource has tips on how they should be kept separate, such as dedicating clinic time and space for flu vaccinations.”

And while it is called the Winter Planning Toolkit, Price is adamant that those in the dryer, warmer areas of the country won’t be forgotten.

“We aren’t forgetting about our warmer northern communities experiencing dry season conditions either. It is common to see an increase in infection risk due to a rise in tourism during this time. So, this isn’t just a resource for practices in our colder areas, there is something for all clinics,” she said.

The latest Covid-19 numbers in NSW have 100,211 active cases, with 1,254 hospitalised and 34 in ICU, while 11 residents have died within the last 24 hours.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor and sub-editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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