What do you need to know about the flu and flu vaccine?

With another flu season on its way, it pays to get in early with a vaccination to help prevent illness.

Australia experienced one of its worst flu seasons last year; the largest since the 2009 ‘bird flu’ year.

The flu, or influenza, is highly contagious and is passed on through infected droplets from coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include high fever, dry cough, aches, chills, sore throat, a stuffy nose and loss of appetite. In most cases the flu lasts for a few days or weeks but it can be more serious; an estimated 3000 deaths in Australia each year are linked to flu.

The flu season typically stretches through the colder months from April to October. Immunisation prior to this period helps reduce the risk of infection with the virus.

“Vaccines give the immune system a head start,” explains Professor Allen Cheng, Director of the Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology Unit at Alfred Health, in Melbourne.

“Exposing the immune system to the components of the flu virus ‘trains’ the immune system to recognise the virus more quickly when it meets the real thing. At best, vaccination reduces the risk of influenza by about 50 to 60 per cent. While this is far from ideal, it is still better than nothing.”

Vaccination is recommended for healthcare workers, children and people who work with children, pregnant women, the elderly, indigenous Australians and those with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and lung disease.

Being prepared and getting your flu vaccination prior to the flu season can play a big part in protecting yourself and the wider community.

Chemist Warehouse aims to vaccinate 100,000 Australians aged 18-plus against the flu this year through its in-pharmacy flu vaccination clinics available at more than 190 stores.

“Last year was the largest flu season Australia has seen in many years,” says Mario Tascone, Pharmacist and Chief Operating Officer of Chemist Warehouse Group.

“Flu vaccination is the most important way to prevent influenza and its complications. Being prepared and getting your flu vaccination prior to the flu season can play a big part in protecting yourself and the wider community.”

Bookings can be made online at www.chemistwarehouse.com.au/flu or by contacting your local Chemist Warehouse.

Certain groups are eligible for a free flu vaccine through the National Immunisation Program. If you are six (6) months and over with medical risk factors; or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; or 65 years and over; or pregnant, please speak with your pharmacist or doctor about the National Immunisation Program.