Time to get protected against influenza

AS the winter chills descend, it is timely to be vaccinated against influenza.

There is 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.

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 5 to 10 per cent, but may be up to 20 per cent in some years.

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

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.

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.

Dr Brett Sutton,

Victoria deputy chief health officer

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