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Tasmanians urged to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses this Winter

July 22, 2023 9:41 am in by Newsroom

Tasmanians are being reminded that as respiratory illnesses circulate widely this Winter, there are familiar steps we can take to protect ourselves and each other.

We are about halfway through Winter, and with Tasmanian schools returning next week, it
is timely for a reminder of the actions we can all take to reduce the harms of respiratory
infections.

Every Winter, many respiratory infections circulate in the Tasmanian community. This year,
COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are common.

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Director of Public Health, Dr Mark Veitch, encouraged Tasmanians to continue to prepare,
plan and protect themselves and each other throughout the coming months.

“Recent months have brought a substantial increase in several common respiratory
infections,’’ he said.

“Cases of COVID-19 in Tasmania have decreased recently, but cases of influenza and RSV
have increased significantly. Influenza is affecting Tasmanians of all ages, with notifications
highest among school-aged children, and younger children. Influenza will continue to circulate
during Winter and early Spring.

“I encourage all Tasmanians aged 6 months and older to get their annual flu vaccine,
particularly those aged less than 5 years, those 65 years and older, pregnant women, those
with medical conditions, and Aboriginal Tasmanians.

“If you have not had a COVID-19 vaccine or illness this year, boosters are widely available at
GPs and most local pharmacies. If you are at risk of severe illness, please plan with your GP
about how you will get tested and access antiviral medication if you become sick.

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“People should also protect themselves and others by staying home if they are unwell, and
keeping up simple behaviours like covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands.

“Please consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor public spaces, particularly if you are at
higher risk from respiratory infections, or if you have symptoms of respiratory infection.

“As schools resume, and many Tasmanians return to workplaces, we should also remember
the importance of staying away from school or work when you have a respiratory infection. This can help reduce the spread of infections in the community.”

Department of Health Secretary and State Health Commander, Kathrine Morgan-Wicks,
reminded Tasmanians that the successful COVID@homeplus program continues to provide
high-quality virtual care to Tasmanians experiencing respiratory illnesses.

“The COVID@homeplus team is there to support Tasmanians who test positive to COVID19, as well as eligible Tasmanians who have symptoms of influenza and other respiratory
infections who are at higher risk of severe illness,’’ she said.

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“This program has already supported more than 38,700 Tasmanians by providing them with
virtual care to help manage their illness while they are in the comfort of their own home. This
includes in situations where you are unable to quickly access your regular GP, with
information on your treatment then being shared by the COVID@homeplus team with your
GP.”

The COVID@homeplus team can also help facilitate access to COVID-19, influenza and RSV
PCR testing in certain circumstances for high-risk individuals, including children. Rapid antigen
tests (RATs) for COVID-19 can also be accessed at pharmacies and by concession card
holders through Service Tasmania centres.

If you live in a rural or regional area and/or are unable to leave home (such as people with a
disability), please contact the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 to discuss options for
accessing RATs.

Testing is critical to ensure timely access for high-risk individuals to the correct anti-viral to
manage the relevant respiratory illness and help prevent or reduce more severe consequences
of the illness.

Anyone with questions about COVID@homeplus in relation to COVID-19 or other
respiratory illnesses can phone the team on 1800 973 663. For more information about staying well this Winter, visit https://www.health.tas.gov.au/campaigns/winter-wellness

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