Get vaccinated to protect yourself from influenza
This season’s influenza vaccine is now available and health authorities are urging everyone to get vaccinated.
“The most effective way to prevent the disease is by vaccination,” Chief Health Officer Dr Sara Watson said.
“Flu season can be variable and everyone should get an annual flu vaccine anytime from mid-April onwards to be protected. In 2017, the peak influenza activity occurred in mid-August in Central Australia and two peaks occurred in the Top End: in February and early September. It’s never too late to be vaccinated as the flu can spread all year round.”
Flu spreads easily and can cause severe disease especially in the young, elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions. Influenza is spread by coughing, sneezing and contact with infected hands or surfaces contaminated with influenza virus. It is important to prevent spread of infection by coughing or sneezing into your elbow and washing your hands thoroughly. If you’re really sick, stay away from work and other places where you’ll spread the flu.
In 2017 in the NT, 1450 influenza notifications were received, which is approximately 2.3 times the five-year mean. Nine NT deaths were related to influenza infection last year, which is 2.9 times the five-year mean. Nationally there was an increased number of deaths reported last year; most occurred in the elderly, which is consistent with influenza A (H3N2) strain circulating.
Seasonal influenza is a serious disease and characterised by a sudden onset of fever, cough, headache, severe muscle and joint pain, sore throat and extreme tiredness and may last for several weeks. Influenza can cause severe illness or death, especially in people at high risk such as pregnant women, Indigenous people, the elderly, individuals with specific chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and chronic heart, renal or lung diseases.
Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications and for people who live with or care for high risk individuals including health care workers and those working in aged care facilities.
There are different vaccines for different age groups so please check with your immunisation provider to ensure you receive the vaccine that is best for your age. It takes two weeks for your body to produce a protective immune response after getting the influenza vaccine, so see your GP, Aboriginal Medical Clinic, vaccine providing pharmacy or community clinic now. This year all Territorians aged 65 years and over are eligible for a free flu vaccine that is specially formulated and gives them increased protection.
A 2018 influenza vaccine is available free for:
- Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- Indigenous people aged between 6 months to less than 5 years, and 15 years and over
- All people aged 65 years and over
- Individuals aged 6 months and over with chronic medical conditions
“Everyone who wants to protect themselves from influenza should be vaccinated,” Dr Watson said.
“If more people are vaccinated, less disease will circulate and the number of hospitalisations and death from influenza infection will decrease.
“People who are not eligible for the National Immunisation Program funded vaccine should also see their General Practitioner or immunisation provider for a vaccine now.”