Influenza is caused by infection with an influenza virus. The main viruses that cause influenza are influenza A and influenza B. Each of these have different strains. It maily affects the throat and lungs, but can also cause problems with the heart and the rest of the body, especially in elderly people with other health problems. Influenza makes people quite unwell, and is different to a severe cold which people often mistakenly call the "flu".
Every year people in certain
high risk groups are more likely to be impacted by seasonal flu than others.
It is particularly important for people at increased risk of severe illness from influenza to be vaccinated against influenza and to seek medical attention early if they develop symptoms.
Flu can produce symptoms of fever, chills, cough, sore throat, tiredness and muscle aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea. Severe case of flu can result in breathing difficulty and pneumonia. Symptoms generally appear between two to four days after exposure. If you develop these symptoms you should stay at home and avoid close contact with others until your symptoms are gone.
If you have trouble breathing, go to a hospital Emergency Department or call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
If you need medical advice call your GP, or healthdirect on 1800 022 222
Flu is spread by viruses floating in tiny droplets from a sick person's cough or sneeze. It is also spread when those droplets from a sick person land on a surface or object which is then touched by someone else who picks up the virus on their hands. The flu is not spread through air conditioning or ventilation systems.
Vaccination (or immunisation) means becoming protected from a disease as a result of receiving a vaccine.
When you are vaccinated, a tiny part of a disease or germ (that is weak or dead and cannot infect you with the real disease) enters your body (usually either through injection or orally) and triggers your body's defence system to create antibodies. The antibodies remember what these germs look like and can kill this type of germ if you are exposed to it in the future.
Because the flu vaccine doesn't contain a whole flu virus it can't give you flu, nor can you pass on the disease because of the vaccination.
Vaccination prevents people from becoming infected with diseases. This means there is less disease circulating in the community which not only protects you, but can help protect those around you who are not able to be vaccinated, such as infants under 6 months of age.
Every year a new seasonal flu vaccine is developed. It protects against the four types of flu that are expected to be the most common that flu season (winter). The seasonal flu vaccine is now available in Australia. It protects against the H1N1 pandemic strain, an H3N2 strain and two influenza B strains.
Vaccinations are available from your general practitioner, some local pharmacies or Aboriginal Medical Service. We recommend you call ahead to make sure your practice is vaccinating on the day you want to visit.
If you are not able to access your GP, local pharmacy or AMS and wish to be vaccinated, contact your local
public health unit for advice.
Hospitals and other health services (eg renal dialysis clinics or antenatal clinics) may also offer flu vaccination to in-patients and out-patients that are more likely to become really sick with flu.
The seasonal flu vaccine is free for some groups of people who have been identified as part of a national program.
NSW Health Immunisation Unit has more information about the seasonal flu vaccine and groups eligible for free vaccine.
If you are having trouble breathing, go to a hospital Emergency Department or call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
If you are
more likely to become really sick from flu, you should speak to your doctor as soon as you start to feel sick. There is
medication that can reduce the effects and duration of flu but it works best if started early.
If you are not in a high-risk group, talk to your doctor if you feel moderately or very unwell. If you are only mildly unwell, you can probably
take care of yourself at home.
If you need medical advice, call your GP or healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
The home should be kept well ventilated with doors and/or windows open during the day, if possible and if safe to do so.
Hand washing and
cough etiquette posters are available.
Getting vaccinated against flu greatly reduces the chance that you will be infected by a flu virus.
NSW Health Immunisation Unit has more information about the seasonal flu vaccine.
If you are sick with flu, you should avoid close contact with other people to prevent them from also becoming sick. The opposite advice also applies - avoid close contact with sick people to avoid catching the flu yourself.