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Beat the flu this season, get vaccinated

Although the season hasn’t officially started yet, influenza is circulating in the community with more than 3,000 notifications of influenza so far this year.

Executive Director Communicable Diseases Dr Sonya Bennett said it was a timely reminder that now was the time to get vaccinated in preparation for the flu season this winter.

"The influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent getting the flu and has been shown to reduce illness, hospitalisation and death."

"It's something you need to have each year to stay protected because immunity wanes over time and the strains used in the vaccines can change depending on which virus strains are expected to be around."

This year the government-funded influenza vaccine used in the National Immunisation Program is a quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against two 'A' and two 'B' strains of influenza.

Dr Bennett said there were no issues with the rollout of the vaccine in Queensland for the funded program, with stock readily available across the state.

"If your GP is temporarily out of stock; ask them when they will be re-stocked or, if you are buying the vaccine privately, an option is to seek out a pharmacy that also provides a vaccination service."

Amanda Stork, mum of two boys Eli (four years old) and Orlando (aged seven months) has already had the vaccination and said she would also be vaccinating her boys.

"Initially I wasn't sure if they could have the vaccination or not, but since learning that they both can and should, we will definitely get them vaccinated."

"Seeing your child sick with a cold is bad enough, I can't imagine how devastating the flu would be; so I'll do what I can to prevent that."

Similarly, Amanda's father Joe also opted to get vaccinated this year.

"I have generally always had a flu shot every year, but it's particularly important now with the boys around; I don’t want to be the one to pass something onto them like the flu."

Dr Bennett said there were subgroups of people in the community who were considered at higher risk of developing serious complications if they get the flu.

"Babies and children can be significantly affected by the flu. In fact, influenza is the leading cause of hospitalisation among Australian children under five years of age out of all the vaccine-preventable diseases."

Dr Bennett said in 2015, more than 7,000 Queensland children aged less than 10 years were diagnosed with the flu, with more than 350 admitted to public hospitals.

"This represents 21 per cent of all public hospital admissions for the flu."

She said of those children, 84 (24 per cent) were under 12 months of age.

"Newborns can't be vaccinated against influenza until they are six months of age, so to provide that extra bit of protection for them until they reach that age, we encourage parents to get vaccinated and for women to get vaccinated while they are still pregnant."

"In fact, the flu vaccine can be given at any stage during pregnancy."

Dr Bennett said another important at-risk group was adults aged 65 years and over because of their risk of developing serious complications.

"During last year's influenza season, around 3,760 persons aged 65 years and over were diagnosed with influenza; 13 per cent of the total number of cases in Queensland."

"Serious illness and complications in otherwise healthy adults is not common but can occur depending on which flu strains are circulating."

"Sickness aside, the time and productivity lost in sick days could be prevented by vaccination."

Dr Bennett advised if you do become unwell; visit your GP for advice.

"Stay away from work, social gatherings or public places to avoid spreading the illness, and exercise good hand and respiratory hygiene by washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze."

Last updated: 4 July 2016