The sweltering heat has passed and now the flu season is upon us.
This flu season is shaping up to be particularly bad this year as the number of confirmed cases across Australia is up to three times higher than similar times in previous years.
The flu is caused by a highly contagious virus that causes symptoms such as a high fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, cough, congestion and a runny nose. In many cases, influenza resolves by itself but occasionally the complications of influenza can be deadly.
The influenza virus is high risk for certain patient groups including young children under the age of five years, older adults above the age of 65 years, pregnant women, patients with weakened immune systems and patients with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes.
Vaccination is the best possible opportunity to decrease the chance of contracting the influenza virus. The Department of Health recommends that immunisation for the flu should be given to everyone above the age of six months towards the end of April or beginning of May. Immunisation lasts approximately three to four months so getting this timing right is important as the peak usually occurs towards the end of winter.
Every year a new influenza vaccine is developed with different strains. These strains are chosen by working out which viruses have been prevalent in other countries in their flu season in the northern hemisphere.
Since each year’s influenza vaccine is different and immunity only lasts for a relatively short period of time, it is very important to be vaccinated every year.
If you belong to a high risk group, you can receive a free influenza vaccine from your GP. Other people can also access the vaccine from their local GP or from their local immunisation pharmacy at a cost of about $20.
Side effects from the influenza vaccine include tiredness, localised pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, muscle aches and maybe a mild high temperature. These side effects should pass within 24 hours.
Now is the time to get vaccinated. If you are not sure whether you are eligible for a free vaccination from your doctor, ask your local pharmacist.