Don't let the flu floor you this season: consider the flu vaccine

5 June 2012

With flu season fast approaching, NPS is encouraging all Australians to find out whether they or any of their family members may need to get a flu vaccination to be protected for the 2012 flu season.

NPS clinical adviser Dr Philippa Binns says that the benefits of the flu vaccine are clear in terms of protecting individuals and communities.

“In Australia, it’s estimated that around 2000 people die and 10,000 people are hospitalised every year because of flu and its complications. Having the flu vaccine protects you, it protects at-risk people you may be in contact with, and it can reduce the chance of needing to use antibiotics to treat flu-related complications,” says Dr Binns.

“Healthy people can be struck down by severe influenza but for some people catching the flu can be very serious, and have a higher risk of complications. For these groups, vaccination is especially recommended and is free under the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program.

“At risk groups include people with a long-term medical condition such as diabetes or severe asthma, over 65s and pregnant women. If you are in regular contact with someone in a high risk group, then you should also consider having the vaccine to help prevent you from passing the flu on to them.”

Dr Binns says it’s important to remember that if you do get the flu, antibiotics won’t help. This is because the flu is caused by a virus and will not respond to antibiotics.

“However for people in higher risk groups, influenza can result in complications such as pneumonia that do need antibiotic treatment, Vaccination is a simple way to avoid serious illness and related complications,” says Dr Binns.

NPS also reminds people that good hygiene practices can reduce the risk of infections spreading.

“Simple steps like covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throwing the tissue away in a rubbish bin, then washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water can help stop infections from spreading and help prevent you from catching the flu,” says Dr Binns.

Vaccines against strains of influenza likely to affect Australians in 2012 are now available and there are government recommendations about which specific vaccine to use for adults and young children.

Vaccination is recommended for anyone over 6 months of age seeking protection against flu, but it is highly recommended (and free) for people in particular groups at risk of serious complications from the flu. This includes people with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung and heart problems, pregnant women, people aged over 65, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 15 years.

For more information about who is eligible for free vaccination and evidence-based, unbiased information about flu vaccines visit www.nps.org.au/medicines/vaccines_immunisation/vaccines_a-z/influenza_flu and see your GP or Aboriginal Health Service to discuss whether or not it is appropriate for you.

To find out about more about treating flu without antibiotics and about becoming an antibiotic resistance fighter visit www.nps.org.au/resistance_fighter

If you have any questions about vaccines you can call the NPS Medicines Line (1300 MEDICINE or 1300 633 424), Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm EST.

NPS also provides a phone service for people to report and discuss side effects that might be related to their medicine – the Adverse Medicine Events (AME) Line (1300 134 237).  Any possible side effects reported through the AME Line are reported to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

ENDS 

Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.