As winter quickly approaches, it’s time to start thinking about flu season and organising your annual vaccination.
Flu can leave us bedridden for days but in some more severe cases it can lead to hospitalisation.
Associate Professor Lou Irving, Head of Respiratory Medicine at the RMH, said annual vaccination is essential in the fight against flu.
“Immunisation is the number one way of preventing flu,” A/Prof Irving said.
“Most years the vaccine provides good protection against flu and we expect it to provide good protection in 2019.”
A/Prof Irving recommends combining annual vaccination with other measures to reduce the risk of getting the flu and spreading the virus to others.
“In addition to getting the vaccine, prevention and isolation measures are also extremely important,” he said.
“These include hand hygiene and cough etiquette and staying home from work if you’re experiencing viral symptoms.
“If you do get the flu, it’s important not to return to work until you have fully recovered for the safety of your colleagues and our patients.”
A/Prof Irving said flu is a “whole of community” issue and can affect anyone.
“What we learnt about the flu is that it doesn’t just affect high risk groups such as the elderly or the sick, it affects young and generally healthy people too,” he said.
Those eligible for a free flu shot are:
- people 65 years and over
- pregnant women
- people with chronic conditions
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 6 months of age.
What you can do to stop the spread of flu:
More than 6 million doses of government-subsidised flu vaccine have been secured this year, including a new A strain and a new strain for the B Victoria lineage. Your GP or pharmacist will advise you on the most appropriate vaccine and the best timing for you.
Practice good hand hygiene and always wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Cover your mouth and turn away from others when coughing or sneezing.
If you become ill with the flu, stay home from work and other commitments until you have recovered to prevent spreading the virus to others.
You may decide to treat the flu with antiviral medication prescribed by a doctor. Antivirals shorten the symptoms of flu by one day if taken within 48 hours of symptom onset, and reduce the chance of serious flu complications. Some other things you can do to speed up recovery are getting plenty of rest, staying warm and keeping your fluid intake up.