With winter approaching, WA Country Health Service South West Public Health Physician Naru Pal is encouraging residents to get their annual flu vaccination in preparation for this year’s flu season.
“Although people with underlying health conditions are most at risk from influenza associated complications, healthy people can also become seriously ill and even die from flu,” said Dr Pal.
“Last year, of more than 300 people diagnosed with confirmed influenza in the South West, about one in five of them required hospitalisation with eight people admitted to intensive care.
“Flu is a highly contagious and potentially serious disease that mainly spreads by droplets produced when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes.
“Droplets can also settle onto surfaces, such as computer desks, doorknobs and telephones and can then infect people when passed from the hands to the mouth or nose.
“People should not wait until the last moment to get vaccinated as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be fully protective,” Dr Pal said.
Free flu vaccine is available to people who are vulnerable to severe influenza, including:
Dr Pal said it is safe for pregnant women to receive the flu vaccine and it can be given at any time during pregnancy.
“Influenza can be serious, not only for individuals and their families who contract it but also for the organisations they work for and the people they care for,” Dr Pal said.
The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year before winter,” Dr Pal said.
Minor side-effects of the vaccine may include soreness at the injection site or, less commonly mild flu-like symptoms.
“You can't catch the flu from the vaccine as it does not contain any live virus.
“Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, tiredness and vomiting. It is generally a more severe illness than the common cold and lasts much longer. People experiencing moderate to severe symptoms should see their GP.
“For those most at risk, the flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia or in severe cases, death.”
Flu vaccines are available free of charge to at-risk groups and for a fee to the general community through GPs, SW Aboriginal Medical Service and community health vaccination providers.
Attendance at some clinics may incur a consultation fee.
WA Health provides an influenza factsheet and other related information here.
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