With the mornings becoming chillier and the coughs and colds coming home from work and school, now is a good time to consider the influenza vaccine and whether this is appropriate for you.
Influenza or “flu” is a viral infection that usually causes fever, aches and pains, headache, cough and fatigue. In some cases, the flu can cause bronchitis and pneumonia, which can result in hospitalisation and even death. The flu can also exacerbate certain medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease. The flu can be very dangerous for elderly people, pregnant women and very young children.
The best way to prevent influenza is the flu vaccine. There are many different strains of influenza and each year the vaccine changes to include the strains that are most common and serious. The National Immunisation Program provides a free flu vaccine for people over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 15, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, impaired immunity and diabetes.
The WA Government also provides free flu vaccines to all children aged 6 months to 5 years. From 2011 until today more than 50,000 West Australian children have received flu vaccines and there have been no safety concerns reported. Each year, hundreds of children are admitted to hospital with influenza and up to 10% end up in Intensive Care. We strongly encourage parents of children in this age group to consider immunising their child.
There is new evidence that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine wanes with time and it is important to be covered around the time of peak influenza infection, which in Perth is in August. We recommend vaccinating any time from May onwards, and it is never too late to have a flu vaccine. A private vaccine is available for those not at high risk who do not wish to chance becoming unwell and requiring up to a week or more away from work or school.
This article was written by Dr. Lucy Rosman and published in the Western Suburbs Weekly in May, 2017.