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Avoid the flu and get vaccinated

6 April 2018

Torres Strait, Cape York and Northern Peninsula Area residents are being urged to get their flu jabs this year and avoid becoming part of the annual influenza statistics.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Acting Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Tony Brown said the region already had recorded 24 confirmed cases of influenza so far this year, compared with 14 for the same period last year.

“Overall, last year was a bad flu season in the Torres and Cape HHS region with 469 confirmed cases for the year, compared with 181 cases in 2016,’’ he said.

“So, we want people to start planning now to get vaccinated.

“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.

“The flu can also be high risk for pregnant women, creating a greater chance of serious problems for their unborn babies and possibly leading to premature labour.

“Being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

“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.’’

Dr Brown said this year’s vaccine of the flu virus would be available from the second half of April.

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

A free influenza vaccine is available for all adults aged 65 years and older, all pregnant women, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and older, and all individuals 6 months and older with medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza.

People not covered by the free vaccine will need to pay a fee depending on their individual immunisation provider. A consultation fee may also apply at a private GP.

“This year, 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 Brown 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 Brown said the influenza vaccine was a safe vaccine for children and should be offered annually to everyone older than six months of age.

“Our message remains the same: get vaccinated every year because it is the best way of protecting yourself against the flu,’’ he said.

“But we should also not ignore basic practices such as proper hand washing, covering a cough with a tissue or our arm, and staying home when we’re sick.

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

Dr Brown said the free flu vaccination was available through Torres and Cape HHS primary health care centres, as well as from other immunisation providers in the region such as private

GPs and non-government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

Last updated: 13 April 2018