As the South West battles a growing influenza epidemic, a Bunbury GP has urged residents to get vaccinated before they become sick.
The WA Country Health Service has recorded 11 cases of influenza since the start of June compared with nine cases over the same period last year.
There have been about 900 cases reported across the State, and in the past week the number of cases was three times higher than the previous week.
Many GP clinics across the city are being run by skeleton crews as many doctors have also fallen ill.
Bunbury Central Medical Practice general practitioner Dr Bu O’Brien said she had seen an increase in people with flu-like symptoms.
‘‘There’s also a lot of head colds going around,’’ she said.
‘‘We would be mostly worried about the people with other illnesses— diabetes etcetera — who really should get vaccinated to prevent further complications.’’
Influenza vaccinations are still available at the majority of GP clinics and Dr O’Brien urged people to get vaccinated if they could.
‘‘What people don’t realise is we can only give the vaccination to people who are well, notthose who are already getting sick,’’ she said.
WA Country Health Service South West public health physician Dr Naru Pal said the single best way to protect against the flu was to receive a vaccination each year before winter.
‘‘As the winter influenza season has certainly begun and its activity continues to rise, it could be people’s last chance to effectively protect themselves against the disease,’’ he said.
Dr Pal said he was unsure why there were so many cases of the flu this season.
‘‘Flu is very unpredictable as the viruses always change,’’ he said.
‘‘The severity of the flu season depends on many factors such as what type of flu viruses are spreading, the proportion of people who have been vaccinated, characteristics of the person being vaccinated and how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing the illness.’’
The WA Country Health Service has advised those with the flu to stay at home to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
A spokesman urged people to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, use a paper tissue to wipe their nose and dispose of the tissue properly in a rubbish bin and wash their hands thoroughly and often.