Are you at risk of severe flu?

People with the following medical conditions are at greater risk of severe flu:

  • cardiac disease, including cyanotic congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure
  • chronic respiratory conditions, including suppurative lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and severe asthma
  • other chronic illnesses requiring regular medical follow up or hospitalisation in the previous year, including diabetes mellitus, chronic metabolic diseases, chronic renal failure, obesity, and haemoglobinopathies
  • chronic neurological conditions that impact on respiratory function, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and seizure disorders
  • impaired immunity, including HIV, malignancy and chronic steroid use.

See the 2022 Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice on seasonal flu vaccines for further advice on at-risk groups.

Most people recover from the flu after a few days, but for some people it can lead to a severe and life-threatening illness. An estimated 800 people in NSW die each year from flu-related illnesses.

If you have a medical condition that puts you at greater risk of severe flu or know someone who does, there are simple precautions you can take to help stop the spread of flu:

Get a flu shot

All people with a medically at-risk condition are strongly recommended to have an flu shot, which is provided free under the National Immunisation Program.

To access a free flu shot, make an appointment with your your GP or Aboriginal Medical Service. Flu shots are also available from many pharmacies but these will not be free.

Stay at home if sick

Flu can spread quickly when large numbers of people are in close contact. If you are sick with flu, stay at home and avoid close contact with other people to prevent them from also becoming sick. The opposite advice also applies - to avoid catching the flu yourself - avoid close contact with sick people!

Sneeze into your elbow

Sneezing into your elbow instead of your hands can help stop the spread of flu. Did you know a sneeze can travel 1-2 metres and a single sneeze droplet may contain 200,000,000 individual virus particles?

Clean your hands

Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitiser regularly - a flu virus can survive on unwashed hands for at least 30 minutes and up to two days on other surfaces.

What to do if you have flu symptoms

Call your doctor immediately.

Most people with the flu have a mild illness and do not need medical care. However, if are in a medically at-risk group, have flu symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, body aches, headache and fatigue) and are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your local doctor immediately. Specific antiviral medicines for flu infections are available but these should be started within 48 hours of symptoms starting.


A range of influenza resources are available to download or order through the Better Health Centre.

Current as at: Friday 29 April 2022
Contact page owner: Communicable Diseases