The “flu” is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses, which affects the nose, throat and lungs.  It is not the same as the common cold, and may cause a mild to severe illness, occasionally even death.  Having asthma and/or other respiratory conditions may affect the severity of this respiratory illness.

The flu vaccine is made from an inactive flu virus. It is not made from a living virus and cannot cause you to ‘catch’ the flu or cause a cold.

It can take up to two weeks to develop protection, so during this time it is still possible to contract the virus, however, if you are exposed to the flu virus after you have had the vaccine, your immune system will recognise the virus and immediately produce antibodies to try to fight it.

The flu vaccine is developed to protect people against a specific strain/s of influenza that is predicted to be prevalent in the season ahead, so it needs to be repeated every year, prior to the winter flu season commencing.

Sometimes a person who has been vaccinated will still get the flu. This may be because they have either been exposed to the virus before the vaccination has taken full effect or because the virus has evolved over the season and the vaccine is not as effective over the new/changed strain.

Some people are more vulnerable than others to contracting the influenza virus and suffering serious health complications from the illness. There are also people in the community who cannot have a vaccination for various reasons.  This is where ‘herd immunity’ is beneficial, when most people are vaccinated, it helps decrease the amount of illness in the community, which in turn helps protect those who are most vulnerable.  This is why we strongly recommend that everyone who can be vaccinated is vaccinated, to protect themselves and those around them.

Influenza and other respiratory illnesses are easily spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth or nose. Maintaining good hand hygiene and coughing into your elbow or tissue is essential in decreasing the spread. And always ensure that used tissues are disposed of appropriately.

We recommend getting your flu vaccination in Autumn, prior to the flu season. , As the flu shot becomes available, it is important to speak to your GP for advice regarding the best time for you and your situation.  For instance, if you are travelling overseas in April, it might be best for you to receive the flu vaccine before you leave the country.

The following groups are eligible to receive free government-funded flu vaccination:

o Pregnant women (at any stage),
o children aged 6 months to less than 5 years,
o people 65 years and older,
o Aboriginal people 6 months and older, and
o people 6 months and older with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe flu, including:

  • Chronic respiratory conditions including asthma, COPD
  • Cardiac conditions
  • Chronic neurological conditions;
  • Immunocompromising conditions;
  • Diabetes and other metabolic disorders
  • Renal disease; chronic renal failure
  • Haematological disorders Haemoglobinopathies
  • Long-term aspirin therapy in children aged 6 months to 10 years; These children are at increased risk of Reye syndrome following influenza infection.
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