Department of Health

The flu is here - but it is not too late to vaccinate

11/07/17
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

As the winter chills descend, it is timely to remember to protect yourself from an unwanted visitor and be vaccinated against influenza.

Victoria's deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said there was no shortage of vaccine supplies across Victoria and everyone, especially people at most risk of contracting the flu, should be immunised.

"We know our seasonal influenza rates are up, with the overall number of confirmed influenza cases in Victoria up 81 per cent, compared to the same time in 2016," Dr Sutton said.

"It's not too late to vaccinate to provide protection against the top four circulating strains of influenza.

"Influenza vaccine is available from general practitioners, many of whom also have practice nurses who are skilled at immunisation and also from pharmacists who are qualified and trained to give immunisations.

"The elderly, infants, those with chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease, renal failure, diabetes and chronic neurological conditions, the immuno-compromised, pregnant women and smokers should all be immunised.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also generally experience more severe illness.

"Severe disease may also occur in otherwise healthy children and young adults. Annual attack rates in the general community are typically five to ten per cent, but may be up to 20 per cent in some years," Dr Sutton said.

Typically, the annual influenza season in Victoria occurs between April and October.

Dr Sutton said the flu is a highly contagious viral infection, spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.

"The most common symptoms of the flu are sudden high fever, a dry cough, body aches, and feeling very tired and weak.

"Infections in children may also be associated with gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Croup is a common presentation in children.

"Most symptoms resolve within seven days, although the cough may persist for longer. Complications of influenza include middle ear infections, secondary bacterial pneumonia and worsening of underlying chronic health conditions.

"Most otherwise healthy adults will be able to infect other people up to seven days after becoming sick, so the best way to avoid spreading the flu is to stay at home while you are unwell.

"In particular, avoid going to work or school or visiting busy public places. Avoid sharing linens, eating utensils and dishes.

"It is also important to practice good cough etiquette at all times. This includes coughing into a tissue and disposing of it immediately, or coughing into your sleeve.

"Good hand hygiene is also important. Wash your hands regularly using soap and water, particularly if you cough into your hands," Dr Sutton said.

Further information on influenza is available at the Better Health Channel.

Reviewed 11 July 2017

Health.vic

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Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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