20 Years and Still Going Strong

Avoid the Flu This Season

DSC_0201WEBAs winter approaches, do does flu season, as we are reminded by Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi, who recently participated in the WA launch of the Flu Vaccination Program.

Influenza is commonly thought of as a disease that only afflicts the elderly, but many people in younger age groups could be adversely affected by influenza.

Each year influenza causes more than 18,000 hospitalisations and is responsible for around 1,500 deaths, a number comparable with the Australian road toll.

Doctor Chris Blyth from the Telethon Centre for Children’s health spoke to us about why it’s so important to get vaccinated.

“Everyone is at risk of flu. We often think about the very young and the very elderly at risk of flu but everyone can get exposed to flu, about 20,000 Australians get hospitalized with flu each year so it is a significant illness in every winter season for West Australians and Australians in general.” he said.

Those who have underlying medical conditions are especially at risk, in particular people with heart conditions, diabetes, kidney disease impaired immunity and neuromuscular disorders or pregnancy.

“The most important thing is going to see your primary care practitioner, your GP or a local immunisation clinic. There’s some groups that are provided free vaccines, others are not. The ones that are provided vaccines are under the national program are those over the age of 65, or those younger than 65 with risk factors such as heart disease, lung disease, problems with their immune system, problems with their kidneys.

“In Western Australia we have a program specifically for young children 6 months to five years and they can access free vaccines but anyone can access a vaccine they just need to go and see their primary care provider.”

Dr. Blyth says it’s very important for those with HIV to talk to their doctor about getting a flu shot. “Anyone with a condition that affects the immune system such as HIV or those undergoing chemotherapy and things like that are at increased risk of the flu. The only way they can decrease that risk is by having a vaccination.”

DSC_0205WEBThe flu vaccine is free and available for those who qualify under the National Immunisation Program, including those over 65 years of age, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and individuals who have medical conditions that predispose them to influenza. Those conditions include cardiac disease, diabetes, impaired immunity and HIV.

Sophie Joske

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March 24, 2014

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