It’s that time of the year again
Australia experienced one of its worst flu seasons last year; the largest since the 2009 ‘bird flu’ year.
With another flu season on its way, it pays to get in early with a vaccination to help prevent illness. The flu, or influenza, is highly contagious and is passed on through infected droplets from coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include high fever, dry cough, aches, chills, sore throat, a stuffy nose and loss of appetite. In most cases the flu lasts for a few days or weeks but it can be more serious; an estimated 3000 deaths in Australia each year are linked to flu.
The flu season typically stretches through the colder months from April to October. Immunisation prior to this period helps reduce the risk of infection with the virus.
“Vaccines give the immune system a head start,” explains Professor Allen Cheng, Director of the Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology Unit at Alfred Health, in Melbourne. “Exposing the immune system to the components of the flu virus ‘trains’ the immune system to recognise the virus more quickly when it meets the real thing. At best, vaccination reduces the risk of influenza by about 50 to 60 per cent. While this is far from ideal, it is still better than nothing.”
Vaccination is recommended for healthcare workers, children and people who work with children, pregnant women, the elderly, indigenous Australians and those with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and lung disease.
What else can I do to avoid getting the flu?
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Stay home when you are sick
Cover your mouth and nose
Clean your hands
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Practice other good health habits.