Lifestyle

Mums among the hardest hit by surge in flu cases

Mums are being hardest hit by the surge in flu cases in Australia.
Mums are being hardest hit by the surge in flu cases in Australia.

MUMS are being hit hardest by the 21,000 confirmed case of influenza in Australia which is more than double the number the same time last year.

The Influenza Specialist Group (ISG) is monitoring the spread and impact of the disease in Australia & New Zealand and reports a sharp increase in the number to more that 20,979.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg, as these are laboratory confirmed cases of the virus and many more go unreported.

Swine flu - or H1N1 - make up the majority of cases.

The records show more than 8259 cases of laboratory confirmed influenza among younger people, aged between 20 and 49.

And in this age group it is females, many of them mums copping it the hardest - with about 25% more women than men currently getting sick with the flu 1. 

An ISG Focus Group showed in 2012 that 70% of females in Australia were not vaccinated.

And mums are at the frontline of any flu epidemic. It is their children, especially little children, who bring it home in droves.

Children are much more likely to contract influenza in any given season (20-50% compared with 10-30% in adults), with up to 70% of children contracting the virus during pandemic years.

It was just a normal Friday evening earlier this year, when 40 year old Gold Coast resident, Gai O'Dwyer began experiencing severe headaches and body cramps.

Over the week-end her symptoms worsened and she felt really sick. So she went to see her GP who suspected a case of influenza and did a nasal swab test.

The diagnosis was confirmed a few days later by the laboratory results, which specified the virus as Influenza A.

What followed was an extremely difficult six weeks for Gai and her family. Her husband had to take two weeks off work to care for her and their young daughter while she recovered.

"I just had no idea that the flu could do this to me," explains Gai.

"I'm fit, I'm young and healthy. I very rarely get sick. This experience was physically, emotionally and financially very challenging for me and my family.

Had I known I could have prevented all this, I would have been vaccinated a long time ago.''

One in three face increased risks of severe complications

The ISG estimates that up to one third of the Australian population, many in the younger age groups, could face an increased risk of severe complications should they contract Influenza this flu season, yet only 30-40 per cent of people in this high risk category are being immunised.

"People tend to think of the flu as an illness that has its worst impact on the elderly", notes Dr Alan Hampson Chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group.

"The reality is that influenza 2 results in 18,000 hospitilsations every year.3 Many of those seriously affected are not elderly people. They are regular working people."

So it is late but not too late to get vaccinated against Influenza.

"Vaccination is the single best protection" Dr Hampson adds, "With vaccination, you are protecting yourself and those around you from serious illness.

"But don't put it off.  The window is rapidly closing because your body needs time to respond to the vaccine."

The flu vaccine is free for: pregnant women, those aged over 65 years, Indigenous Australians 15 years or older, and children and adults suffering underlying medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic neurological disease, and impaired immunity.

Antibiotics no cure for the flu

A recent study has revealed that two in three Aussie workers incorrectly believe, that antibiotics are effective in treating the flu.

The study, published by NPS MedicineWise, has revealed a lack of understanding around the severity of influenza and the need for education around prevention and treatment. 

In short, antibiotics only work for bacterial infections, whereas influenza is due to a virus and requires prescription antivirals administered early to treat infection.

And Professor Robert Booy of the Children's Hospital, Westmead warns that while it is fine to take analgesics
and other non-presciption medications to make you feel better when you contract the flu it is important to
realise that they only dull the symptoms.

It is really important to rest until the acute symptoms of fever and aches are no longer there when you withdraw these medications. 

If you do have typical flu symptoms, fever, muscular aches, headache and cough you can get prescription anti-flu medication (antivirals) which will aid recovery but it must be taken within the first two days of symptom onset to be effective.

FLU CASES IN AUSTRALIA

  • Queensland 6818 cases
  • NSW 6650
  • Victoria 2715
  • SA 2023
  • WA 1906
  • NT 334 
  • Tasmania 216
  • ACT 317.

Topics:  editors picks, flu shots, influenza, swine flu, vaccination


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