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Avoid the flu and get vaccinated

Tuesday 21 April 2020


Central West residents are being urged to get their flu jabs this year and help avoid falling sick or infecting others.

Central West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr David Walker said the region had recorded 11 cases of influenza so far this year.

“At this early stage, it’s not possible to say what sort of a flu season we will have this year,’’ he said.

“Last year, we had 192 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza.

“However, notified cases are always only the tip of the iceberg. Many more cases occur who may not be so sick as to go to the doctor or may not be tested.

“With this year’s flu vaccine now available, Central West residents should be making appointments with their immunisation providers to be vaccinated.

“This year, all flu vaccines offer protection against four strains of influenza, including the vaccine for those aged over 65.

“Although the flu vaccines do not protect against COVID-19, they can reduce the severity and spread of influenza which, if contracted, may make a person more susceptible to other respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.

“It is important to get vaccinated to prevent possible influenza-related hospitalisations at a time when the pandemic may put pressure on the public health system.

“You need to be vaccinated every year to keep yourself protected because flu strains change annually, and you will not be immune to these new strains which are covered in this year’s vaccine.

“This year, in addition to normal flu season considerations, new Commonwealth guidelines require that all persons entering an aged care facility have to be immunised against the flu to protect the frail and elderly.

“It’s just a few minutes of your time and it saves you from the risk of possibly becoming very sick if you catch the flu.

“While healthy adults usually recover quite well, influenza infection can lead to other medical complications such as pneumonia – and it can be deadly.

“The flu can also be high risk for pregnant women, creating a greater chance of serious problems for their unborn babies.’’

Dr Walker said it generally took 10 to 14 days after vaccination to be fully protected.

Free vaccinations under the 2020 National Influenza Immunisation Program are available for:

  • All adults aged 65 years and older,
  • All pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy,
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and older,
  • All individuals aged 6 months and older with medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza are eligible for a free influenza vaccine.

“In addition to the Commonwealth-funded free vaccination program, the Queensland Government is also funding a Childhood Influenza Program for all children aged from six months to under five years,’’ Dr Walker said.

“Children under five years of age have some of the highest rates of influenza and associated complications.

“We also know that children contribute greatly to the spread of influenza in the community, and serious complications from influenza can be devastating for children and their families.

“Annual immunisation against influenza is therefore important for all children and continues to be the best way to prevent the spread of influenza.’’

Dr Walker said the influenza vaccine was a safe vaccine for children and should be offered annually to everyone older than six months of age.

He said the vaccine did not contain live flu viruses and could not cause flu.

However, some people might experience mild flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours as their immune system responded to the vaccine.

“Being vaccinated every year is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu,’’ he said.

“But good hygiene is also very important.

“The best way to prevent the spread of flu is to wash your hands, cover your coughs, put tissues straight in the bin and stay away from other people if you or they are sick.

“Staying at least 1.5 metres away – as also recommended during the current COVID-19 pandemic – will mean coughs and sneezes don’t reach another person’s face.

“If you get the flu you should stay home and rest and drink plenty of fluids until symptoms have resolved, which is usually 5-7 days.

“All these measures can also help prevent the spread of influenza.’’

The free flu vaccination is available through Central West HHS primary health care centres, as well as from other immunisation providers in the region such as private GPs and nongovernment Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

However, while the vaccine is free for at risk groups, a consultation fee may apply at your GP.

People who are not eligible for a free flu vaccination are able to purchase one at private pharmacies or local GPs.

The vaccines are becoming available across the region, but please call ahead to your local health facility or immunisation provider to ensure availability.

For further information about flu see: http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/8/118/82/Influenza-The-Flu

PHOTO CAPTION
Mobility scooter users queue up to access the recent drive-through flu clinics held at Blackall Showgrounds for residents of the Blackall-Tambo region. – A total of 190 residents aged over 65 were vaccinated at the first clinic on 9 April and a further 120 residents with a chronic disease or of First Nations descent were vaccinated at the second clinic on 16 April.

The clinics were supported by the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council and further such clinics are planned. Of the clients accessing the clinics who were surveyed, 97 per cent rated the drivethrough service as excellent, 7 per cent as very good and 3 per cent as good.

All agreed they would recommend this process for next year. The drive-through clinic allowed for appropriate social distancing and minimising of risk.

ENDS

For further information contact:

James Guthrie
Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld
Media and Communication
Department of Health
(07) 3708 5379

Jim.Guthrie@health.qld.gov.au

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Last updated: 21 April 2020