Influenza is a major cause of hospitalisation and death among older Australians.
The highest rates of hospitalisation are seen in children under five and the elderly, however the flu is also easily preventable.
Dr Amit Singh, a general practitioner at Seymour Medical Centre, said it is extremely important that people in one of these at-risk categories get a flu vaccination.
‘‘Anyone with chronic disease such as diabetes, respiratory or heart problems are all at increased risk of getting the flu,’’ Dr Singh said.
The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone from six months of age onwards who are going to be at an increased risk of influenza.
It’s also recommended during pregnancy because there are certain medications people can’t take while pregnant, and Aboriginal and Torres-strait Islanders are also at increased risk of contracting the flu.
Immunisations are recommended for children older than six months and up to five years of age, children over the age of 15 and adults over the age of 50.
‘‘The flu can lead to death,’’ practice nurse Sarah Pyle said.
‘‘You don’t get the flu from having the flu needle, it’s a really big misconception.
‘‘People can get some minor redness or swelling and others sometimes experience mild flu-like symptoms,’’ Dr Singh said.
‘‘It’s not going to stop the common cold.’’
This year’s vaccine covers four of the most common strains of influenza but at any time there might be up to six or seven strains of the virus in Australia.
Be aware of flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, joint pains, headaches, fatigue and a poor appetite.
The flu shot is free for people above the age of 65 or in at-risk categories through the National Immunisation Program.
To find out if you’re eligible visit www.immunise.health. gov.au