Flu vaccine needed to prevent another illness outbreak

HEALTH experts are pleading with people in Ipswich to get the flu jab despite fewer reported cases than this time last year.

Moreton Health's Public Health Unit physician Dr Catherine Quagliotto said last year was a very bad year for influenza, with extraordinary numbers of cases recorded across the state.

Dr  Quagliotto said now was the time to get immunised, ahead of the peak season beginning in August and to prevent a repeat of last year's flu outbreak.

"Influenza, or "the flu" is not the same as a cold and can be a serious condition, resulting in hospitalisation and even death. That is why I am urging everyone in the West Moreton community to actively protect their health, and the health of those around you, and get the flu vaccine this year," Dr Quagliotto said.

"The influenza vaccine is the best defence against the flu and it is available now.  For most people, April to May is a good time to have the vaccination to provide protection in time for the flu season which usually falls from June to October, with a peak that often occurs around August/September.

"Getting the vaccine not only protects yourself but it also helps protect those around you, particularly those who are more susceptible to the severe effects of the flu including young children and people aged 65 and over."

In West Moreton there were 3385 cases recorded in 2017, with 383 notifications a week at the height of the flu season.

So far this year there have been 124 confirmed cases of influenza across the West Moreton region - less than this time last year, but about what experts would expect for this time of year.

"Children can be very severely affected by the flu. Given this, I strongly encourage families to take advantage of the Queensland Government's free vaccine for any child aged six months up to age five years under the Childhood Immunisation Program," Dr Quagliotto said.

Free vaccines are also available for pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over and some others who are at higher risk of flu complications.

For the first time this year, there are two new vaccines specifically for those aged 65 and over which are designed to generate a strong immune response and are more effective for this age group in protecting against influenza.

The vaccine does not contain live flu viruses and cannot cause flu. However, some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours as their immune system responds to the vaccine. Serious reactions to the vaccine are rare.

As well as being vaccinated, Dr Quagliotto said there were simple things the community could do to protect themselves and others from flu.

"Flu can spread easily from person to person by droplets from an infected person when they cough, sneeze or talk or if a well person touches surfaces contaminated by infected droplets (including hands, remote controls, phones, keyboards and door handles) and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes," Dr Quagliotto said.

"Practice good hand hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub - this can stop viruses spreading to you.  

"It is really important to stay home when you are sick, cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue then wash your hands.

"You can ask about influenza vaccination at your GP or pharmacy. Ipswich City Council also runs a childhood vaccination program."

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