Seasonal influenza, also known as the flu, is an extremely contagious respiratory illness.
There are three main types of flu virus: the A, B, and C strain. The A and B strains cause most influenza in Australia.
Each year the strains circulating are different. In some years, one of the A strains may be more common, while in other years, the B strains may be more common.
Did you know that if you are infected with the flu you can spread it to people up to 6 feet away?
Vaccination is one of the best ways to protect yourself against the flu and other complications associated with the flu, including pneumonia.
Why do I need to get vaccinated against the flu each year?
Each year, the influenza virus changes. Therefore, the vaccine that was made to combat last year’s strains are no longer effective (or as effective) against the current year’s strains.
The way current flu vaccines work, the body’s immune response to the flu vaccine reduces over time, so annual vaccination is required to ensure you have optimal protection.
When is the best time to get the flu vaccine?
Influenza season in Australia usually peaks in August or September each year. Optimal protection from influenza vaccination occurs in the first 3-4 months following vaccination.
Therefore, it is recommended to vaccinate when the national program starts, which is generally in late April. However, as influenza continues to circulate, it is never too late to vaccinate.
If you are travelling to the northern hemisphere throughout their peak flu season, you should speak to your health professional about additional vaccination options.
Who is eligible for a free flu shot?
The influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone from 6 months old.
It is currently free for the following groups of people due to their increased risk of complications from influenza:
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders aged 6 months to 5 years or >15 years
All adults >65 years of age
All people >6 months of age with certain medical conditions (e.g. severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes) – speak to your doctor if you are unsure if you are eligible
Pregnant women (at any stage during their pregnancy)
Remember that it is always important to speak with your doctor about Influenza vaccination for you and your family. To prevent the spread of influenza, cough and sneeze into your elbow, wash your hands regularly, and stay home if you are unwell.