We know influenza is a highly contagious viral infection, spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.
Typically, Australia’s annual flu season occurs between April and October.
For the best possible protection this year, my advice to all Victorians is to be vaccinated anytime from mid-April onwards. This should ensure they are protected by the time the disease begins to spread more widely in the community.
For people under 65 and without significant existing medical conditions, getting vaccinated at any time is perfectly okay.
No one should miss an opportunity to be vaccinated if it has already been already scheduled.
The record number of flu notifications last year in Victoria alone is a timely reminder about the importance of vaccination – there were more than 48,000 cases and tragically, many deaths were reported.
Already, preparations are underway to provide influenza immunisations for a number of key groups in the community. This year, we expect to make more than one million doses of vaccine available.
In Victoria this season for the first time we are providing free immu-nisation to babies and children
from six months to under five years of age.
Two doses are required for those receiving the vaccine for the first time.
Our seniors will also be protected, with all Victorians over 65 eligible for a free flu vaccine.
Everyone aged 65 and over will receive a specially formulated vaccine that triggers a stronger immune response and give increased protection.
Our message this winter is simple: ‘You never forget the flu – don’t forget your flu shot.’
Flu vaccinations save lives.
When more people are vaccinated, fewer people become ill or suffer life-threatening complications from influenza.
The flu is not like a cold. Symptoms last on average one to two weeks but for some it takes several weeks to recover. It kills more than 3500 Australians each year.
Some of us are more vulnerable to complications – the over 65s, pregnant women, children under five, people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin and anyone with a weakened immune system.
Also, those with chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, chronic neurological conditions and smokers should all be immunised.
All these groups were among those who were affected by flu last year.
And remember, we all have the potential to spread flu to these at-risk groups.
Do what you can to avoid getting and sharing the flu – wash your hands thoroughly, cough into your elbow and get a shot in the arm.
If you’re really sick, stay away from work and other places where you’ll spread the flu. And don’t send ill children to school. They can sometimes be the ‘super-spreaders’ of diseases such as influenza.
Influenza vaccine will be available from general practitioners. Many of our pharmacies are also able to provide flu vaccines as well as advice about the disease.
Following the significant impact of the season last year on hospitals, the Minister for Health chaired a roundtable in late 2017 to canvass possible options for improving winter capacity planning for coming years and enhancing the public’s awareness of and practice of protective measures against influenza.
An extensive communications campaign to alert the public about the coming flu season is one outcome of the roundtable, along with extensive planning within the health system.
If you’ve got the flu, visit your doctor, talk to a pharmacist or phone Nurse-On-Call on 1300 60 60 24 – 24 hours a day. Victoria also has 12 Supercare Pharmacies open 24/7.
Everyone needs to prepare for the coming flu season.
Additional information can be found on the Better Health Channel:
Dr Brett Sutton, Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer.