The influenza is already making itself known across the country as the cooler months approach.
Since January almost 3500 cases of influenza have been confirmed across Australia, with the worst state being Queensland with 1225 reported cases.
The strains for this flu season have changed from previous years with the A/California/7/2099 (H1N1) being replaced.
The strains expected in 2017 are:
- A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) pdm09 - like virus
- A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2) - like virus
- B/Brisbane/60/2008 - like virus (belonging to the Victoria lineage)
- B/Phuket/3073/2013 – like virus
The good news is that while cases are beginning to rise, a vaccine for all four strains will be available soon.
General practitioner Dr Charlotte Middleton said it is important for the public to remember there is no live virus in the flu shot and that its composition changes each year as the strains change.
“This is why an annual flu shot is advised,” she said.
The vaccine is especially important for the elderly, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, very young children, as well as for people with underlying medical conditions, as the flu can be especially dangerous.
It is estimated that the flu contributes to 13,500 hospitialisations and more than 3000 deaths among Australians aged over 50 years.
How do I protect myself?
Dr Middleton said good hygiene is one of the most important ways to help prevent the flu.
Good hygiene includes:
- Washing your hands regularly and properly with soap and water, particularly after touching your nose or mouth, and before handling food.
- Sneezing and coughing into tissues then throwing them away immediately and washing your hands
- Cleaning surfaces such as your keyboard, telephone and door handles regularly to get rid of germs
- Where you can, avoid sharing towels with other people and throw disposable tissues and paper towels in the bin immediately after use.
Ultimately prevention is the best medicine.
An annual flu shot is the best way to protect yourself.
When is the flu shot available?
The flue shot is now available. Ring Brook Medical on 6543 1222 to make an appointment.
Many workplaces will also provide them or they will be available from your GP or other immunisation providers such as pharmacies.
When should I seek medical care?
“People should seek medical care immediately as antiviral medications may be prescribed,” Dr Middleton said.
“These medicines won’t cure the flu, but if they are taken within 48 hours of symptoms they can help to reduce the length of time you are ill by around one day, relieve some of the symptoms and reduce the potential for serious complications.”
When visiting your GP you should advise reception staff that you think you have the flu, so you can be provided with a mask and isolated if necessary in order to prevent it spreading.