Flu can be a very serious disease. To protect yourself and others from the flu, the Australian Government recommends everyone from six months old wishing to protect themselves against the flu should get vaccinated every year. Last year there were almost a quarter of a million confirmed flu infections last year, and more than 29,000 hospitalisations including as many as 1100 deaths.
Every year our doctors and nurses get asked a series of questions and we thought this year we would put them all together for you to help you to better educate yourself and make the right decision for you and your family.
What is the flu?
Influenza (or ‘flu’) is caused by a virus that can infect your nose, throat and sometimes lungs. It spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing and close contact, such as kissing and sharing food and drink.
What are flu symptoms?
Flu symptoms can start suddenly like fever, headache, tiredness and muscle aches. Elderly people might also experience confusion and children might get an upset stomach and muscle aches. Symptoms can last for a week or more. When severe, complications such as pneumonia and worsening of existing medical conditions can lead to hospitalisation and sometimes death.
When should I get the flu shot?
Now! Free flu vaccines under the National Immunisation Program are available from your vaccination provider from April 2018. Getting vaccinated in May gives you and your children the best protection ready for the peak flu period, from around June to September.
How does the flu vaccine work?
This year’s standard vaccine will again immunise against four strains of the flu: H1, H3, B-Victoria and B-Yamamata.
Who is eligible for the free flu shot under the National Immunisation Program?
The vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program for people who are more likely to be affected by complications from the flu. This includes:
People 65 years and over
Older people aged 65 years and over are more likely to be affected by complications associated with seasonal flu.
Pregnant women are more likely to be affected by complications associated with the flu. Experts from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommend vaccinating against flu at any stage during pregnancy, and preferably before the flu season starts. The flu vaccine given in pregnancy protects pregnant women and their babies during their first months of life. This is when babies are most likely to be affected by infection and are too young to get vaccinated themselves.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can get the flu shot for free at these ages:
• six months to less than five years
• 15 years and over.
People with certain medical conditions
People with some existing medical conditions are more likely to have complications from the flu and are eligible for a free flu vaccine. This includes anyone who is six months of age and over who has:
• heart disease
• severe asthma (requiring frequent medical consultations or use of multiple medications)
• chronic lung conditions
• diseases of the nervous system which affect your breathing
• impaired immunity
• kidney disease
• blood disorders
• children aged six months to 10 years on long-term aspirin therapy.
What are the new flu vaccines?
New flu vaccines for people aged 65 years and over
This year, there are two new vaccines available to provide better protection for people aged 65 years and over. The “Super vaccines” are needed because of the current vaccine's poor effectiveness in the elderly – who are most at risk. Ninety-one per cent of Australians killed by the flu are over 65.
The first new vaccine is known as Fluad, and it contains an adjuvant – a compound, in this case squalene oil, that increases the immune system's response to the vaccine. The second vaccine, Fluzone High Dose, has a simpler trick: it has four times the level of inert virus contained within the vaccine.
If you are aged 65 years or over, speak to your doctor or vaccination provider to find out more about receiving one of the new vaccines. These vaccines cannot be given to people aged under 65 years.
Does it matter what age my child is?
All flu vaccines are age-specific. Let your doctor know the age of your child before they get their flu vaccine. This will make sure they receive the correct dose and brand.
If your child is aged six months to less than nine years and has never had the flu vaccine before, experts recommend they have two doses in the first year they receive the vaccine. They should have the doses at least four weeks apart. After that only one flu vaccine dose is needed each year.
Is the vaccine safe to take if I am pregnant or have an egg allergy?
The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies at any stage during pregnancy.
It is safe for people with an egg allergy, including serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), to have flu vaccines.
How can I stop the spread of flu?
Get a flu shot!
Washing your hands regularly with soap and water before and after contact with others, and before handling food. If available, use alcohol-based hand wash if washing facilities are not nearby.
Covering your nose and mouth with tissues or your elbow when you sneeze or cough. Make sure you throw tissues away and wash your hands immediately afterwards.
Not sharing personal items such as cups, plates and cutlery.
Staying at home when you are sick.
Please contact us today to arrange your vaccination appointment and help stop the spread of flu this season. Call 4356 2500.
Australian Government Department of Health