Australians unlikely to catch the flu and how to stop it

These Australians are emerging as the age groups most at risk for the early spread of influenza nationwide. But there are ways to avoid it.

Young Australians are emerging as the age groups most at risk for flu as the country experiences an early start to flu season.

National disease surveillance data revealed that 10,599 cases have been reported this year alone, and 7,173 of them were diagnosed in the two weeks to May 8.

According to this year’s Australian Department of Health flu surveillance report, people aged 15 to 24 and children under 10 had the highest flu notification rates.

There have been 153 hospital admissions due to influenza, including seven intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, since seasonal surveillance began in April.

A new bi-weekly report is due out this week and should show the upward trend continuing.

The peak annual flu season typically runs from June to September, but Australia hasn’t seen a typical season since 2019, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, including a travel ban to international.

In a joint statement, Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sonya Bennett, and Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Alison McMillan, urged people to maximize their protection against flu and also Covid, by getting vaccinated .

“Influenza vaccines registered for use in Australia are safe and effective and are the best way to protect against influenza and spreading it to others. If you’ve been vaccinated, you can still get the flu, but it’s usually a less serious illness,” they said.

“Getting the flu shot before the peak of flu season will provide the highest level of protection. This usually occurs from June to September in most parts of Australia. It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to be fully effective, so it is best to arrange your vaccination before June. »

They said it was important for people to know that Covid-19 vaccines do not provide protection against the flu and that flu vaccines do not provide protection against Covid-19.

“For this reason, it is essential that people get their flu shot and are also up to date on their Covid-19 vaccinations – including having a Covid-19 winter booster dose if they are eligible,” they said. declared.

“If you have been sick with Covid-19, you can get a flu shot as soon as you feel well.”

The Australian Immunization Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) has advised that flu shots can be safely given at the same time as a Covid-19 vaccine.

Everyone aged six months and over is recommended to get a flu shot every year, and all at-risk Australians are eligible for a free shot under the National Immunization Scheme.

These include adults 65 and older; children aged six months to less than five years; pregnant women; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over; and people six months and older with certain medical conditions that increase their risk of severe influenza and its complications.

There are also enough doses of influenza vaccine on the private market to meet the demand of people who are not eligible for the free vaccine but want to protect themselves from influenza. Many employers also offer free flu shots to employees.

“This year, we are particularly concerned about young children, as many have never been exposed to the flu virus or have never been vaccinated against the flu, and have not developed any immunity, which increases the risk of complications. The flu can be serious for all children, even healthy children,” said Dr Bennett and Professor McMillan.

“Influenza vaccination during pregnancy is safe, free and recommended during every pregnancy and at any stage of pregnancy. Babies under six months old are too young to get the flu shot themselves. By being vaccinated during pregnancy, protective antibodies are transmitted to the baby, protecting it during its first months of life, when it is most vulnerable.

In addition to vaccination, people should continue to practice all the preventative measures learned from Covid, including covering coughs and sneezes, washing their hands regularly and staying home if they feel unwell, they said.

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