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Flu season 2018: Get vaccinated now

9 May 18

2017 was one of the worst flu seasons on record in Australia and Respect Aged Care are encouraging all residents, staff, volunteers and visitors to get the flu shot to help us lessen the risk to our residents.

2017 was one of the worst flu seasons on record in Australia with an estimated 29,000 people admitted to hospital as a result.  According to the Commonwealth Department of Health & Ageing there was been a total of 249,882 laboratory confirmed notifications of Influenza in Australia for 2017.  However this number only represents those confirmed cases, with many thousands more going unreported.  There have been more than 12,200 confirmed cases of influenza already in 2018 according to the Department of Health, with numbers already 19 per cent higher than they were this time last year.

Aged care residents are a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to influenza and the Australian government has recently introduced compulsory flu vaccination availability for workers in sector. Respect Aged Care welcomes the move from the government and encourages all residents, staff, volunteers and visitors to be vaccinated against influenza to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.  The government has made two new ground-breaking flu vaccines, available to over three million Australians aged 65 years and over free of charge.  All staff and volunteers will been offered free flu vaccinations this year, through a mixture of onsite vaccination sessions and partnerships with local pharmacies, to ensure that we can develop a “herd immunity”.  Herd immunity is a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity.  It arises when a high percentage of the population is protected through vaccination against a virus or bacteria, making it difficult for a disease to spread because there are so few susceptible people left to infect.

Unfortunately many Australians are cautious about getting the flu vaccine due to widespread myths and misconceptions.  Here are some of the most common myths disproved by the Australian Influenza Specialist Group:

Myth: Influenza vaccination can cause influenza
Fact: Influenza vaccine does not contain any live viruses and therefore cannot cause the illness

Myth: The influenza vaccine is not effective
Fact: Recent meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and local observational studies support the claim that influenza vaccine can be expected to provide somewhere between 50-70% protection against medically-attended laboratory confirmed infection managed in the community (that is, in general practice). Although protection may be better when circulating and vaccine strains match, there is good evidence of substantial cross-protection when the circulating and vaccine strains don’t match.

Myth: The influenza vaccine causes serious adverse events
Fact: Serious adverse reactions to the influenza vaccine are rare, with most common reactions being local redness and swelling. Other mild symptoms including headache, mild fever and sore muscles may occur in 1-10% of people vaccinated but are limited to 24-48 hours. Allergic reactions may occur in people with a severe egg allergy, but may receive the influenza vaccine after consultation with their GP.

Myth: People do not need to get vaccinated if they are healthy
Fact: Anyone can contract influenza and being fit and healthy does not protect against infection. For some people the result of an influenza infection will be lost income through days off work, but for those at high risk of developing complications from influenza, the results can be much more serious, including hospitalisation or death.

Myth: It is not necessary to get vaccinated against influenza every year
Fact: The types of influenza viruses circulating in the community change from year to year. In light of this, a new vaccine is made each year to protect against the current strains. In addition, immunity provided by the current influenza vaccines fades over the course of a year. In fact the decline may start as early as 5 or 6 months after vaccination. It is therefore not only important to get vaccinated against influenza every year regardless of vaccine strain changes, but to also time the vaccination so that it is at its most effective when it is needed most (at the peak of the flu season).

Myth: Vaccination against influenza is a waste of time and money
Fact: Even healthy young people may take two weeks or more to fully recover from influenza and people falling ill commonly need to take time off work resulting in financial hardship. Furthermore, falling ill with influenza might mean missing out on important life events as people often cannot get out of bed for several days.

Myth: People shouldn’t get vaccinated against influenza if they are sick
Fact: Minor illnesses without fever should not prevent vaccination, especially if the person is in one of the groups at risk of serious complications.

As with any vaccination, if you unsure if it is suitable for you please discuss your options with your GP.