Influenza (the flu)
The flu is a highly contagious viral infection spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes and touching contaminated surfaces, so it’s easy to catch. Although flu symptoms can be mild in some people, the virus can cause very serious widespread illness, possible life- threatening complications, including pneumonia and potentially death, even in healthy people. The flu contributes to around 3000 deaths each year in Australia.
The incidence of flu was lower in 2020, however, as we return to our regular daily routines, and move around within our communities, the risk of catching the flu will return.
Some people are at higher risk of severe complications associated with the flu. They include:
- pregnant women
- people aged over 65
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- babies younger than 6 months
- people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and other lung conditions, and weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of the Flu
Flu symptoms appear very suddenly, and can last for up to several weeks, so the flu is not just ‘a bad cold’. The flu can also make some existing medical conditions worse.
The most common signs of the flu are:
- sudden onset of a high fever (38 °C or more)
- a dry cough, sore throat and sometimes a stuffy nose
- body aches and muscle pain (especially in the head, lower back and legs)
- feeling extremely weak and tired and not wanting to get out of bed
Protection from the Flu
Yearly flu vaccination is a safe and effective way to help protect against the flu. Also, by getting a flu vaccination, you’re helping to protect those in the community that are too ill or too young to be immunised and this helps slow the spread of the disease.
It is important to get the flu vaccine every year, around April to May, as the virus strains that cause the flu change each year and the vaccine is updated each year to include the most common strains of the virus.
Who should get a flu vaccination?
The flu can affect people of all ages, so anyone over the age of 6 months is recommended to have an annual flu vaccination (provided there are no known allergies to previous flu vaccinations or components of the vaccine such as egg).
People who work with, live with or care for those in the high- risk groups should also get vaccinated each year to protect the more vulnerable members of our community.
For more information about Influenza and vaccinations, visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page click Here