Australia’s worst flu season in recent times was in 2017, with adults aged over 80 years and children 5-9 years the most affected. By December, there had been 234,869 laboratory-confirmed notifications and an estimated 29,000 hospital admissions from influenza: more than two-and-a-half times the number compared with the previous season.
As at 16 April, there have been a total of 11,057 laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza in Australia for 2018. This year, we want to make sure people remain well and leave our emergency departments for emergencies.
This page contains information about colds and flu, myths and facts, links to data and prevention and management tips.
FREE FLU VACCINATIONS
Under the National Immunisation Program, the following people are eligible to receive free influenza vaccines from mid-April 2018, through their local doctor, community health clinic, Aboriginal Medical Service or other vaccination providers:
- pregnant women
- people aged 65 years and over
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to less than five years and 15 years and over
- people aged six months and over with medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza (such as diabetes, severe asthma, lung or heart disease).
CONSUMER FACT SHEETS
- The flu vaccine – factsheet for consumers
- The flu vaccine – factsheet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Vaccinate against flu. Protect your baby too – brochure for pregnant women
- Vaccinate against flu. Protect your baby too – factsheet for pregnant women
FAST FLU FACTS
- Get a flu shot - An annual influenza vaccination is the best way to be protected against seasonal flu. Vaccines wear off after 3 to 4 months and flu types change over time, so get your flu shot every year.
- Wash your hands - In addition to vaccination, good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent colds and flu from spreading. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- Cover coughs and sneezes - Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Sneeze into your elbow or clothing, not into your hands if you can.
- Bin your tissues - Throw disposable tissues in the bin immediately after using them.
- Keep surfaces clean - Clean touched surfaces such as keyboards, phones and door handles regularly to get rid of germs, especially if you share them.
- Make sure your asthma plan is up to date - If you have asthma, review your asthma plan and make sure to see your doctor if you are unwell. You might be able to avoid an unnecessary trip to the Emergency Department.
IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE FLU
- Stay home - It’s not OK to soldier on when you have the flu. You need to stay home, look after yourself and reduce the risk of passing the illness to others.
- Antibiotics won't help - Antibiotics do not reduce symptoms of colds and flu as these illnesses are caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections.
- Emergency departments are for emergencies - If you are unwell, see your doctor as soon as you can - there are no appointments in emergency departments, where sicker people will always be seen first. Remember, you can get immediate medical advice at any time of the day or night on the phone by calling the After Hours GP helpline on 1800 022 222, or going to healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker
UNDERSTAND THE SYMPTOMS
Colds are very common. They are caused by about 200 different viruses. There is NO vaccine for a cold. The flu is a viral infection affecting your nose, throat and sometimes your lungs. A vaccine is available for the flu.
This image has been taken from healthdirect symptom checker. Another useful online resource is the healthdirect medicines page which provides trusted information about different medicines, such as pain and fever relief medicines, antibiotics, antidepressants, medicines for children, including any medicine recalls.
MYTHS ABOUT THE FLU
MYTH: The flu is not a serious illness
FACT: The flu is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening disease
MYTH: Vitamin C supplements can prevent the flu or colds
FACT: There is no evidence to support vitamin C as a way of preventing colds or flu
MYTH: You can catch a cold or the flu from cold weather or getting caught in the rain
FACT: The flu or colds are caused by viruses and not by cold climates or cold air
MYTH: Colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics
FACT: Antibiotics won’t cure colds or flu. Antibiotics work against bacteria, not viral infections
MYTH: Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated
FACT: Everyone can benefit from the flu vaccine. If you are in a higher risk group, the vaccine is free
MYTH: I’m pregnant so I shouldn’t have the flu jab because it will affect my baby
FACT: The flu shot is safe for pregnant women at all stages of their pregnancy
DATA AND FURTHER READING
- Department of Health: Australian Influenza Surveillance Report and Activity Updates
- Immunisation Coalition: 2018 Influenza Statistics
- National Influenza Surveillance Committee: Information brief on the 2017 Influenza Season
- UNSW Sydney, School of Public Health and Community Medicine: How bad IS the flu in 2017 in Australia?