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Influenza Vaccination

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is caused by a highly contagious virus spread primarily through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms of influenza usually occur one to three days after infection and may include sudden onset of fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and severe tiredness.
Flu is much worse than the common cold, can effect any age group and often leads to time off work/studies, interrupted travel plans and can have a number of medical complications such as pneumonia.
It is documented to be one of the most common vaccine preventable travel illness and is transmitted year-round in the tropics, unlike in Australia where it has seasonal peaks and troughs.

Who can have the vaccine?
The influenza vaccine is recommended from 6 months of age. It is particularly recommended in pregnancy, children under 5yrs, for the elderly, for those with chronic medical conditions, for health care workers and those with occupational exposure.

Is there a cost?
Most people need to pay for the influenza vaccine, however it is funded by state and national health departments in certain at-risk groups (such as those 65 and over).

When should it be given?
There has been some debate around timing for this year. In advance of the Australian flu season but not too early is the general advice. For travellers who will be at risk overseas, it should be given prior to departure.

About the vaccine
Given annually, the vaccine is generally well tolerated. It is designed to match circulating strains of Influenza A & B. It does not contain any live virus and cannot cause influenza.
In 2019 those under 65 will receive a 4 strain vaccine. Those 65 years and older will receive a 3 strain vaccine which has been specifically formulated to provide increased protection in that age group.

Common side effects are related to stimulation of the immune system and include local redness, swelling & discomfort and occasionally fever, muscle aches. These are usually mild and self-limiting and usually relieved by paracetamol.

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