Photo source: Australian Government Department of Health

South West residents are being urged to get their flu jabs this year and avoid becoming part of
the annual influenza statistics.

South West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Chris Buck
said the region had recorded 5 confirmed cases of influenza so far this year, compared with 17
for the same period last year.

“But notified cases are always only the tip of the iceberg as many cases may not be confirmed
as samples may not be sent away for laboratory testing,’’ he said.

“At this early stage, it’s not possible to say what sort of a flu season we will have this year.

“Last year was a bad flu season in the South West region with 528 confirmed cases for the
year, compared with 126 cases in 2016.

“However, notified cases are always only the tip of the iceberg. Many more cases occur who
may not be so sick as to go to the doctor, or may not be tested.

“So, we want people to start planning now to get vaccinated.

“It’s just a few minutes of your time and it saves you from the risk of possibly becoming very sick
if you catch the flu.

“While healthy adults usually recover quite well, influenza infection can lead to other medical
complications such as pneumonia.

“The flu can also be high risk for pregnant women, creating a greater chance of serious
problems for their unborn babies and possibly leading to premature labour.

“Being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

“You need to be vaccinated every year to keep yourself protected because flu strains change
annually and you will not be immune to these new strains.’’

Dr Buck said this year’s vaccine of the flu virus would be available from the second half of April.

He said it generally took 10 to 14 days after vaccination to be fully protected.

A free influenza vaccine is available for all adults aged 65 years and older, all pregnant women,
all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and older, and all individuals 6 months
and older with medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza.

People not covered by the free vaccine will need to pay a fee depending on their individual
immunisation provider. A consultation fee may also apply at a private GP.

“This year, in addition to the Commonwealth-funded free vaccination program, the Queensland
Government is also funding a Childhood Influenza Program for all children aged from six months to under five years,’’ Dr Buck said.

“Children under five years of age have some of the highest rates of influenza and associated
complications.

“We also know that children contribute greatly to the spread of influenza in the community, and
serious complications from influenza can be devastating for children and their families.

“Annual immunisation against influenza is therefore important for all children and continues to
be the best way to prevent the spread of influenza.’’

Dr Buck said the influenza vaccine was a safe vaccine for children and should be offered
annually to everyone older than six months of age.

He said the vaccine did not contain live flu viruses and could not cause flu.

However, some people might experience mild flu-like symptoms for up to 48 hours as their
immune system responded to the vaccine.

“Serious reactions to the vaccine are rare. While some people may experience mild side effects
such as pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site, these usually resolve quickly,’’ he said.

“Our message remains the same: get vaccinated every year because it is the best way of
protecting yourself against the flu.

“But we should also not ignore basic practices such as proper hand washing, covering a cough
with a tissue or our arm, and staying home when we’re sick.

“All these measures can also help prevent the spread of influenza.’’

ENDS

For further information contact:
James Guthrie
Principal Media Officer, Rural and Remote Qld
Media and Communication
Department of Health
(07) 3708 5379
Jim.Guthrie@health.qld.gov.au