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What is influenza?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is caused by a virus and mainly spreads from person to person through the air by coughing, sneezing or talking, and by touching a person’s hands, surface or object.

The flu virus infects your respiratory system such as the nose, throat and sometimes your lungs. It differs from a cold as symptoms such as fever, sore throat and muscle aches develop suddenly and last about a week. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can cause complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis which require hospitalisation. Sometimes these complications can lead to death.

Flu can also make some underlying medical conditions worse. There is a need to get vaccinated every year because the viruses circulating in the community continually change and immunity from the vaccine does not last a long time. It is especially important that people at risk be vaccinated each year.

4 things you might not know about the flu shot!

  1. There is no live virus in the flu shot.
  2. The composition of the vaccine changes every year.
  3. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy.
  4. bioCSL Fluvax® is not recommended for children under 5 years of age.

Can I receive free flu vaccine under the National Immunisation Program?

The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone from 6 months of age who wishes to be protected against influenza. Free flu vaccine is available for the following people:

  • Anyone aged 65 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 15 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone aged 6 months and over with one or more of the following medical conditions:
    • heart disease
    • severe asthma
    • chronic lung condition
    • chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year
    • diseases of the nervous system
    • impaired immunity
    • diabetes
    • Children aged 6 months to 10 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy

I received a flu shot last year, do I still need to get one this year?

Yes. Immunity decreases over time and flu vaccination is needed each year to ensure you continue to be protected. Vaccination is recommended in early autumn to allow time for immunity to be strengthened before the flu season starts.

The 2015 seasonal influenza vaccine is trivalent which means it can protect against three strains of the influenza virus. The 2015 trivalent vaccine differs from the 2013  seasons trivalent vaccine as it contains two new strains. Therefore it is especially important for those who are at risk to be vaccinated.

The H1N1 pandemic influenza virus strain, A(H1N1)pdm09, remains in the vaccine. The second influenza A strain and the influenza B strain, however, are different from previous years. The in the 2015 southern hemisphere trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine are:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, 15 µg haemagglutinin (HA) per 0.5 mL dose
  • an A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)- like virus 15 µg HA per 0.5 mL dose
  • a B/Massachusetts/02/2012-like virus15 µg HA per 0.5 mL dose

Even if you received a flu vaccination towards the end of the last flu season, you should still be vaccinated again before this flu season.

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