Ugh, I think I have the flu!

It’s one of the most common phrases I hear across winter. In fact, many of the people who think they have the flu often have another type of less painful virus. If you truly get the flu you’ll know all about it as anyone who’s been there may testify. The pain is horrific and may come on suddenly – people with influenza may barely be able to get out of bed, be fatigued, have a fever, tired eyes, sore throat, runny nose or a headache. In children, symptoms may also include vomiting or diarrhoea.

We’re right on the cusp of flu season and it’s a timely reminder to consider getting a flu vax with there being up to six weeks for their full effectiveness to take place. Flu vaccinations are currently available from doctors and some pharmacies with the peak flu season generally hitting us around June. If you’re still unlucky enough to contract influenza having had the vaccination, your symptoms will be much reduced.

The flu vax readily available in South Australia this year has been updated to cover us for some strains of the virus that precipitated the northern hemisphere experiencing a nasty flu season. Whilst there has been a lot of talk at the moment about a ‘super flu’ vaccine (and that it may be more effective because it covers against an extra strain of the flu), it should be remembered, these new vaccines will only be superior if the regular flu vaccine contains the wrong type of B virus compared to what will circulate in winter.

However, based on what we know of the Northern Hemisphere’s strains of flu virus, indications are that the current flu vaccine will cover the strains that are likely to be in Australia this winter, but you can never be totally sure.

A flu vaccination is highly recommended for some sectors of the community as outlined below however it is also recommended that the broader community considers an annual flu vaccination. The strains used in the vaccine change every year which is why it’s important to be vaccinated yearly.

The government offers a subsidised vaccine that is available at The Health Hub Adelaide at no cost to people at high risk of developing complications if they get the flu, including the following groups of people:

  • everyone aged 65 years and over
  • all pregnant women (including those in the first trimester)
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months up to 5 years of age
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years of age and over
  • people six months of age or older with the following underlying chronic medical conditions such as:
    • cardiac disease
    • chronic respiratory conditions including severe asthma or other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, e.g. diabetes, chronic renal failure, chronic metabolic disease and haemoglobinopathies
    • chronic neurological conditions that may impact on respiratory function including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders and other neuromuscular disorders
    • those with impaired immunity, including HIV infection, malignancy and chronic steroid use
    • children on long term aspirin therapy

For more information or to receive a flu vaccination, contact your local health care professional or pharmacy offering the service.

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