Each year the flu affects thousands of Victorians and puts an enormous amount of pressure on our hospitals and health system. Over 3,500 avoidable deaths occur in Australia every year from complications of seasonal flu, including pneumonia.

The flu isn’t like the common cold, it can hit quickly and last for a few weeks, meaning time off work or school and staying away from family and friends. For vulnerable Victorians, like children, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system, the flu can have serious and devastating outcomes.

We want to ensure that all Victorians know what steps they can take to help prevent getting and spreading the flu.

You never forget the flu, so don’t forget your flu shot.

Did you know?

tall man highlighted at the back of group woman nurse highlighted in group of people older man highlighted at back of group highlighted woman in group mixed group of people standing
  • Anyone can get the flu - it doesn’t discriminate. If you’re fit and healthy, you’re still at risk of getting the flu. The best way you can protect yourself is with the flu shot.
  • You might have the flu and not know it. You can be contagious up to four days before you first feel sick, while you’re sick, and up to seven days after. When you are sick with flu, avoid going to work or school, and don't visit public places.
  • The flu shot can’t give you the flu, because it doesn’t contain any ‘live’ virus. You may feel a little ‘off’ after getting the shot - that’s completely normal.
  • The flu shot changes every year. It is specially created each year to protect you against the top circulating flu strains identified by the World Health Organization. So even if you had your flu shot last year, get it again this year to protect yourself this season.

What is the flu?

The flu – or influenza – is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications, including pneumonia. The flu is spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.

The flu is not like a cold. Symptoms last on average one to two weeks but for some it takes several weeks to recover.

A bout of the flu typically follows this pattern:

  • Days 1–3: Sudden appearance of fever, headache, muscle pain and weakness, dry cough, sore throat and sometimes a stuffy nose.
  • Day 4: Fever and muscle aches decrease. Hoarse, dry or sore throat, cough and possible mild chest discomfort become more noticeable. You may feel tired or flat.
  • Day 8: Symptoms decrease. Cough and tiredness may last one to two weeks or more.

Getting the flu is even more likely if you have been in contact with someone who already has it, or have had some other type of exposure to the virus, such as overseas travel to areas where flu outbreaks are occurring.

The flu doesn’t discriminate and anyone can be affected – that’s why it is so important that everyone in the community protects themselves against the flu this season by getting their flu shot.

nurse standing with quoted text on top of her saying "I remember thinking, this is the flu"

Who is eligible for the free flu shot?

All Victorians six months or older are encouraged to get an annual flu shot. However some groups in our community are more vulnerable to the flu virus, and can also suffer more serious complications from the flu. The flu vaccines are available for free in 2018 for these groups due to their increased risk of complications from the flu:

  • all children aged six months to less than five years old
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander persons aged 6 months to less than 5 years or those over 15 years
  • all Victorians aged over 6 months who have certain medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza complications; for example, severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes
  • all adults aged over 65 years
  • pregnant women (during any stage of pregnancy).

Where can I get my flu shot?

You can get your flu shot from your local GP or at a community immunisation session run by your local council.

Many pharmacies - including Victorian Supercare Pharmacies - provide the flu shot, as well as advice about the virus.

To be protected for peak flu season, which runs from June to September, you should get your flu shot any time from mid-April onwards. However, you can get the flu all year round, so it’s never too late to be vaccinated.


Three simple steps to stop the spread of flu

Cough or sneeze into your elbow

Hands are a major transmitter of viruses and bugs. If you don't have a tissue handy and you feel a sneeze or cough coming on, cough or sneeze into your elbow. It's a part of your body less likely to touch other surfaces and will help stop the spread of those nasty germs.

If you do use a tissue, make sure you dispose of it into a bin nearby.

Flu related topics

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