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Certain groups urged to get influenza vaccine this flu season

It might only be April, but 2019 is already shaping up to be a tough year for influenza. Hospitals, GPs and aged care facilities are reporting abnormally high cases of influenza detections.

To date, 2019 has seen more notifications of influenza compared to the same period in the previous five years. March alone saw over 19,000 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases, compared to roughly half that number in March 2018.

June to September is considered peak influenza season, but April is the perfect time to get vaccinated against the flu. The vaccine is most effective for the first six months, so getting your shot now will protect you over the peak period.

While everyone is susceptible to the flu, there are particular groups in the community who are especially at risk of infection and developing complications from the virus. It’s especially important for these people to get the flu vaccination in time for the influenza season.

Older people and their families

In NSW, this year there have already been 13 outbreaks of influenza in aged care facilities – with another 10 outbreaks in Queensland over the same period. Aged care facilities are particularly vulnerable to flu outbreaks, as older people are more likely to have ongoing health issues and compromised immune systems.

Aged care facilities also see a large number of visitors, with people coming to visit their grandparents and families. This means that there are more people congregating in enclosed spaces, providing plenty of opportunities for the influenza virus to spread.

Pregnant women

There are a few reasons why pregnant women are considered high risk when it comes to the flu. Firstly, pregnancy can affect different parts of the body including the immune system, meaning that it doesn’t function to the same level as it does usually. This can mean that the body has a difficult time fighting off viruses like the flu.

The flu can also be serious for developing babies or newborn babies, who can catch the flu off of their mothers. Because babies haven’t had time to build up healthy immune systems, the flu virus can lead to other complications, like bronchiolitis and bronchitis.

Children

For healthy children, the flu can seem like a bad cold. Some children, however, particularly kids under five and those that suffer from chronic health conditions, can develop a very high fever or complications of the flu, like pneumonia, bronchitis, or an ear infection.

Much like in aged care facilities, children often spend times indoors with lots of other children and adults, in kindergarten, daycare or school. While adults are conscious of hygiene practices that can prevent spreading the flu, like regularly washing hands and covering our mouths or noses when we cough or sneeze, children are often less diligent about these behaviours. This, plus the fact that children often share books and toys, means that the virus can easily spread.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Indigenous Australians are more likely to contract the influenza virus, and more likely to have more severe outcomes. That’s why the influenza vaccine is free to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over as part of the National Immunisation Program – as are people aged 65 years and over, and all pregnant women.

One of the most difficult parts of staying healthy and avoiding getting the flu is that the virus is continually changing and developing. That’s why new flu vaccines are developed every year to stay up to date and provide protection against strains that are more likely.

Flu vaccines are important for everyone aged six months and over. It’s not just about protecting your own body from the virus, but the entire community. Mid-April is the perfect time to get yourself and your family vaccinated before influenza transmission is at its peak.

Speak to your Capital Chemist Pharmacist today about booking an appointment for your flu vaccine. Age restrictions apply for children.

You may also be interested in the following:

Multivitamins for the whole family
Common sense for the common cold. Tips to stay healthy during winter
Kids and Colds
Vitamins for healthy adults

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