Docker Street General Medical Centre is running it’s annual flu clinic again this year.
As well as running our usual walk in clinic and vaccine appointments we are also offering spots for workplace vaccinations. Info on the workplace vaccinations can be found in the menu under the tab “Workplace Vaccination Clinic”.
Below is some information on signs and symptoms of the flu as well as some common questions. If you do have any more questions about receiving a flu shot that is not outlined below please feel free to bring it up with your doctor before the vaccination is given.
Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious viral infection that is responsible for major outbreaks of respiratory illness around the world, usually in the winter months. Unlike the common cold, influenza can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which often require hospitalisation.
The flu virus is especially dangerous for elderly people, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and very young children, as well as for people with underlying medical conditions. It is estimated that each year, flu contributes to an average of 13,500 hospitalisations and more than 3,000 deaths among Australians aged over 50 years.
Three different types of influenza viruses infect humans: influenza A, B and C. Only influenza A and B cause major outbreaks and severe disease, and these are included in seasonal influenza vaccines. Influenza spreads from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands. The flu usually differs from a cold as symptoms develop suddenly, and can lead to complications such as chest infections and pneumonia – particularly among the elderly and young children.
Flu symptoms tend to develop abruptly one to three days after infection, and can include: tiredness, high fever, chills, headache, coughing, sneezing, runny noses, poor appetite, and muscle aches. Most people who get the flu will suffer from mild illness and will recover in less than two weeks. However, some people can develop longer-term health problems, including pneumonia, bronchitis, chest and sinus infections, heart, blood system or liver complications, which can lead to hospitalisation and even death.
The flu vaccine is available free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for people who have the greatest risk of becoming severely ill from the flu. These people include:
- pregnant women – the flu vaccine can be safely given during any stage of pregnancy
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of certain ages (children from 6 months of age up to their 5th birthday and those aged 15 years and over)
- people aged 65 and over
- people with certain medical conditions
- cardiac disease
- chronic respiratory conditions (including asthma that requires frequent hospitalisation)
- chronic neurological conditions
- conditions that reduce the function of your immune system
- diabetes and other metabolic disorders
- renal disease
- haematological disorders (blood disorders)
- children aged from 6 months to 10 years of age on long-term aspirin therapy.
ATAGI recommends the flu vaccine for everyone from 6 months of age as anyone can get seriously ill from the flu. The vaccine also protects against less serious cases of flu which can often mean days off work or school.
In addition to the people who are eligible for free flu vaccine on the NIP (refer to above), ATAGI strongly recommends flu vaccine every year for people with Down syndrome or chronic liver disease and those who are obese (with a body mass index ≥40 kg/m2) as they are also at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu.
ATAGI also strongly recommends that people be vaccinated if they are more likely to come in contact with or spread the flu such as healthcare workers, those who are around young children, or people working in aged care facilities. The flu vaccine might also be required for some travellers, which is best discussed with your healthcare provider when planning travel.
Three things you might not know about the flu shot:
- There is no live virus in the flu shot.
- The composition of the vaccine changes every year
- The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy.
Yes. The strains of flu virus can change from year to year. The vaccine may also change to protect against the most recent flu virus strains. Even if the flu strains do not change, yearly vaccination is still recommended as immunity from flu vaccination is not long lasting.
Immunisation is recommended in early autumn to allow time for immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts.
Yes. The flu vaccine can be safely given during any stage of pregnancy. Pregnant women are at the increased risk of severe disease of complications from the flu. Immunising against flu during pregnancy can not only protect women but provide ongoing protection to a newborn baby for the first six months after birth.
Yes. All flu vaccines currently available in Australia are safe to use in adults. All vaccines in Australia must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Can I catch the flu from my flu vaccination?
It is impossible to get influenza from the flu vaccine. The viruses in the vaccine do not contain ‘live’ virus, they merely alert the body to the threat of the virus. The vaccine once administered, encourages the immune system to fight the virus should it present.
Individuals that have experienced:
- Severe reactions to previous doses or components of the vaccine
- Sensitivity to eggs or egg products and chicken proteins
- A medical history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
- A severe infection or high temperature from previous vaccinations.
What is the difference between the trivalent and the quadrivalent vaccination?
The traditional trivalent injectable vaccine (TIV) vaccine should again be effective against the three principal flu strains predicted for 2016 – A(H1N1), A(H3N2), and B/ Brisbane. It’s also cheaper. Several trivalent products will be available in Australia from early March, a month earlier than the two imported 4-strain or ‘quadrivalent’ vaccines.
Fluarix Tetra and the privately-available FluQuadri Adult will contain the trio of strains mentioned above, plus B/Phuket. In most years, B strains account for the fewest flu cases than the A strains. This was not the case last winter. The final national Influenza Surveillance Report published in December described the 2015 flu season as ‘characterised by the predominant circulation of influenza B’. B/Yamagata lineage viruses and B/Victoria accounted for 62% of all lab-confirmed cases’ of influenza.
The report also noted that emergency department visits were about average and ICU admissions were slightly down, with a similar proportion of A- and B-strain infections.
The Australian Govenment has adopted the quadrivalent vaccine for the national program in 2016. This is the first year that the government has moved to a quadrivalent vaccine and is part of their effort to provide the greatest amount of protection for those at risk during the flu season.
At Docker Street Medical Centre, we recommend the quadrivalent vaccine as it does offer a broader protection against circulating flu viruses.