The seasonal influenza vaccine is still available and it is not too late to get vaccinated.
While numbers of people with influenza are currently low, we can expect a peak in coming weeks. I encourage everyone who hasn’t had the influenza vaccine this year, to consider doing so in the next week or so, because it is the most effective way to prevent the spread of flu.
An estimated 3,000 Australians die every year, either directly from the seasonal flu, its complications, or pneumonia. The vaccine is recommended for everyone from six months of age who wish to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza.
It is available free under the National Immunisation Program for people at high risk of complications. They are:
• people 65 years and over
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to 5 years
• all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons 15 years and over
• pregnant women.
Vaccination is also recommended for people who are medically at risk, including anyone who is six months of age and over who has:
o heart disease
o severe asthma
o chronic lung condition
o chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year
o diseases of the nervous system
o impaired immunity
Children aged six months to 10 years on long-term aspirin therapy are also at risk of complications from flu.
• Cover your face when you cough or sneeze and throw used tissues in a rubbish bin
• Wash your hands thoroughly and often, for at least 10 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, or use an alcohol-based hand rub
• Stay at home until you’re well. Wait at least 24 hours after your fever resolves so you that you aren’t likely to infect other people. Keep sick children home.
• Call ahead to see a doctor. If you think you may have influenza and you need to see a doctor, remember to call first so the clinic can take precautions to reduce the risk to other people.
Southern NSW Local Health District public health director