Influenza or ‘the flu’ as most of us call it, is a highly contagious and common disease. With the change of season, and the impeding flu season it’s important to make sure that we are preparing ourselves with the influenza vaccination. This year’s summer saw approximately 25,000 cases of the summer flu reported, with the medical industry preparing for a busier than expected winter flu season.

The flu though often used to explain common cold, can be quite serious, especially those in at risk categories such as young children, those over 65 and those with chronic diseases and impaired immune systems, as well as pregnant women.

Spread by body fluids from infected people, symptoms include a runny nose and sore throat, severe general body ache and headache and prolonged high fever.

The flu is a serious disease because it can lead to other illnesses which include:

  • bronchitis
  • croup
  • pneumonia
  • ear infections
  • heart and other organ damage
  • brain inflammation and brain damage
  • death.

Most infections peak at the end of winter therefore it is important to consider the influenza vaccination which is the best protection against the flu. The flu vaccines protect you from getting infected and can also prevent serious disease.  With the strains of flu constantly changing, a new vaccine is needed every year to make sure you stay protected.

Given annually, the vaccine is generally well tolerated. The side effect profile in Perth over recent years has been around 4%, most of these associated with a sore muscle at the injection site. Importantly it’s a dead vaccine. It’s not possible to catch flu from the injection as some people claim. People most at risk of serious complications from flu are eligible for free flu vaccinations.

The best time to get vaccinated is in late May or in June as vaccine protection may decrease around three to four months after getting immunised. This timing will provide protection throughout peak flu season, which in Western Australia is usually August/September.

Travellers are at increased of influenza and should have the flu vaccine prior to heading overseas regardless of the time of year. Influenza is on par with Hepatitis A as one of the most vaccine preventable diseases in travellers.