It’s time to get serious about ‘the Flu’

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This flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst as numbers indicate cases are nearly four times higher than previous years. Over twelve thousand Queenslanders have tested positive and 25 have already died from the virus.
While these deaths were made up of children and aged care home residents, the strong message from health care providers is clear: “don’t be a hero, get a vaccine.”
Vaccines may be easily obtained at a local doctor or pharmacy and pregnant women, children, those aged over 65, people with chronic diseases and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are eligible for a free shot.
If you fall outside these demographics check with a GP, you may also be eligible. Immunity from a vaccine will begin to develop in most people about two to three weeks after they’ve been jabbed so doctors advise thinking ahead and getting one as early as possible.
Protection will peak at about three to four months afterwards. Additionally the virus mutates every year so doctors are reminding people that it’s important to receive a new vaccine each year. Immunity will wear off eventually, so make it’s important to stay vigilant and practice excellent hygiene.
The government has already spent $22.75 million on installing a state- wide immunisation program which includes $2.6 million on the free shot program, and a $1.5 immunisation and flu awareness campaign.
Despite this, many people are yet to receive their jab. Health care providers are urging people to visit a doctor at the first sign of flu if they haven’t already received a shot. Additional advice is to stay at home once you’re ill, don’t over exert yourself and stay away from antibiotics.
Experts suggest that the unusually high numbers for the season are due to a lack of viral activity last year lowering people’s immune systems, a long flu season in the Northern Territory and high numbers of visitors travelling to the United States and bringing the virus home.
While it’s still too early to judge how bad it may get, World Health Organisation officials suggest that the way flu data is collected prevents doctors and statisticians from getting the real picture.
Many people who become ill are unlikely to go to the doctor and get a test, so it becomes difficult to truly map the extent of the problem.
This has led doctors and government officials to suggest year round flu testing as a solution, in order to collect more comprehensive data sets on how many people are affected.
While doctors have refrained from calling it an epidemic just yet, the rising numbers are indicative of a dangerous disease circulating the population, so people should be wary and seriously consider vaccination.