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.
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.
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).
To get your free flu vaccine call your GP to ensure they have vaccine available and make an appointment to get your flu shot. If your usual GP doesn’t have any vaccine available, consider other GP practices or health services in your area.