Dr Brett Sutton, Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, explains why it is important for everyone – not just those who are most vulnerable – to get a flu vaccination now. This is his advice.
We know influenza is a highly contagious viral infection spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes. Typically, Australia’s annual flu season occurs between April and October.
For the best possible protection this year, my advice to all Australians is to be vaccinated any time from now onwards. This should ensure they are protected by the time the disease begins to spread more widely in the community.
The record number of flu notifications last year – there were more than 48,000 cases – is a timely reminder about the importance of vaccination. Tragically, there was also a number of deaths.
This year, we expect to make more than one million doses of vaccine available.
Preparations are already under way to provide free immunisations for a number of key groups in the community.
Some of us are more vulnerable to complications and are eligible for free flu vaccine: the over-65s, pregnant women, children under five, people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and anyone with a weakened immune system.
Also, those with chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, chronic neurological conditions and smokers should all be immunised.
All these groups were among those who were affected by flu last year.
And remember, we all have the potential to spread flu to these at-risk groups.
People aged 65 years and over will receive a specially formulated flu vaccine that potentially increases their protection, especially against one strain of influenza that is more common and severe in the elderly.
For people under 65 and without significant existing medical conditions, getting vaccinated at any time is perfectly okay.
Our message this winter is simple: ‘You never forget the flu – don’t forget your flu shot.’
Flu vaccinations save lives.
When more people are vaccinated, fewer people become ill or suffer life-threatening complications from influenza.
The flu is not like a cold. Symptoms last on average one to two weeks, but for some, it takes several weeks to recover. It kills more than 3500 Australians each year.
Do what you can to avoid getting and sharing the flu: wash your hands thoroughly, cough into your elbow and get a shot in the arm.
If you’re really sick, stay away from work and other places where you’ll spread the flu. And don’t send ill children to school. They can sometimes be the ‘super-spreaders’ of diseases such as influenza.
Influenza vaccine will be available from general practitioners. Many of our pharmacies are also able to provide flu vaccines as well as advise about the disease.
Following the significant impact of the season last year on hospitals, Health Minister Greg Hunt chaired a round table in late 2017 to canvass possible options for improving planning for upcoming years and enhance the public’s awareness of and practice of protective measures against influenza.
An extensive communications campaign to alert the public about the coming flu season is one outcome of the roundtable, along with extensive planning within the health system.
If you’ve got the flu, visit your doctor, talk to a pharmacist or phone Nurse-On-Call on 1300 60 60 24 – 24 hours a day. Everyone needs to prepare for the coming flu season.
Additional information can be found on the Better Health Channel.
Are you convinced? Or were you already a regular? Were you affected by the flu last year?