Protect yourself from the Flu

As a nurse practitioner, I’m often asked about the effectiveness of Flu vaccines. As you get older we become more susceptible to the flu and medical professionals tell us that having a flu vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself against getting the flu this winter. Once again, this year, Southern Cross Care was very pleased to offer free flu vaccinations to all village residents.

The following information provided by the Western Australia Department of Health explains why it’s important to get the flu vaccination and other important information such as side effects.

(Disclaimer: The following information is intended to be a guide only and should not be wholly relied upon for medical advice. Before getting the flu vaccination, please speak to your GP or health care provider to ensure you are suitable for the vaccination.).

The Flu is a highly contagious disease

Some people are at risk of serious health complications if they get the flu. It can make existing medical conditions worse and can cause high fever and pneumonia. Flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets through coughing, sneezing or talking. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose. Good hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of flu and other infections.

People over 65 years can receive a free flu vaccine

Under the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program, people over the age of 65 receive a free flu vaccine. Please note: The vaccine is free however you may be charged a consultation fee. Check costs when making an appointment.

Is the flu vaccine safe?

The flu vaccine triggers an immune response that can protect you from becoming ill if you are exposed to the influenza virus. The flu vaccine cannot cause flu as it is made from the attenuated virus, not live viruses.

All vaccines available in Australia must pass strict safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Who should not have the flu vaccine?

The only reason not to have the flu vaccine is following a severe (anaphylaxis) reaction to a previous dose of flu vaccine, or to any component of any vaccine.

Speak with your GP or immunisation provider for advice. Allergic reactions to flu vaccine are rare. If you are unwell, talk to your doctor about whether to reschedule your vaccination.

What are the risks?

Any medicine, including the flu vaccine, can have potentially serious side effects, such as severe allergic reaction. However, the risk of the flu vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small.

Common side effects include:

  • low-grade fever
  • muscle aches
  • soreness, swelling and redness and a small lump at the injection site.

These symptoms normally occur soon after you received the vaccine, last 1 to 2 days, and resolve without requiring specific treatment.

Severe side effects

If you or someone in your care experiences any of the following severe reactions to the flu vaccine after you have left the doctor or immunisation clinic, call an ambulance (000) or go to a hospital emergency department immediately:

  • difficulty breathing
  • hoarse voice or wheezing
  • pale complexion
  • coughing
  • hives
  • losing consciousness.

Consult your doctor if you experience any other unusual symptoms after vaccination including:

  • high fever
  • convulsions
  • behaviour changes

What viruses do 2017 flu vaccines protect against?

There are many flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The composition of flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated to match circulating flu viruses. Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses (depending on the type of flu vaccine) that research suggests will be most common. For 2017, the quadrivalent vaccine (four -component ) contain:

  • A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09 like virus
  • A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus and a
  • B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus (B/Victoria lineage)
  • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).

How often do I need to have the vaccine to be protected?

Protection usually lasts around 3 to 4 months, so you should have the vaccination at the start of each flu season. Influenza viruses constantly change. Every year scientists try to match the vaccine to the strains most likely to cause flu.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

After vaccination, it can take up to 2 weeks to develop protection.

By Jessie Ho, Head of Residential Care

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