COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN and the Southern NSW Local Health District are encouraging local residents to have a flu shot – and soon – to best protect themselves against the coming season. According to Dr Mel Dorrington, GP Liaison Officer - Monaro, the flu shot is the most simple, safe and effective way of protecting you and your family against influenza. “The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing and close contact,” said Dr Dorrington. “We recommend that everyone from six months of age get vaccinated. It not only protects you, but also others who may be at greater risk of severe illness by reducing the spread of flu in the whole community. It is especially important to get vaccinated if you have contact with young children, the elderly, or people with significant medical conditions,” she said. Current influenza activity remains higher than usual across most of NSW, with inflenza A strains most predominant. “Every year the flu vaccine changes to match the flu virus that is most likely to be around during the flu season. Getting vaccinated every year is the best way of preventing the flu and any associated illness. “It does take about two weeks for your immune system to have a good response to the vaccine and offer you full protection. The vaccine lasts for three to four months so if you’re vaccinated now, you’ll be covered before the peak flu period from around June to September,” she added. Free flu vaccines are available under the National Immunisation Program for people at greatest risk of complications. This includes: all children aged 6 months to 5 years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over people aged 65 years and over individuals with certain medical conditions predisposing to severe influenza pregnant women.
“Good hand hygiene, including washing your hands, as well as sneezing into your elbow and staying at home and away from the general public as much as possible while you are sick are other precautions against the spread of flu,” said Dr Dorrington. Those who are worried about their symptoms should seek advice from their GP or HealthDirect Australia (1800 022 222), a 24 hour helpline that provides advice from registered nurses. “In an emergency call 000 or attend your local hospital emergency department.” Vaccines are now available from your usual immunisation provider: your local GP, Aboriginal Medical Service, community health centre or pharmacy. To find out more go to: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/flu