Influenza

Over 2,500 Australians die each year from complications caused by influenza. Less than half the people most at risk of developing life threatening complications from influenza are being vaccinated annually.

Influenza is not a cold. It is a highly contagious disease, so these immunisation rates must be increased to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. They include the elderly, those with suppressed immunity of any age and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Why Vaccinate?

Influenza is a highly contagious viral illness that can affect people of all ages. It is spread person to person by virus-containing respiratory droplets, produced during coughing or sneezing.

The influenza virus undergoes frequent changes in their surface antigen, which is the reason why the strain composition of influenza vaccine requires annual review. World Health Organisation issues recommendations for the annual influenza vaccine composition based on the circulating strains of influenza.

The attack rate of influenza may range from 5% - 30% of the population. It can be a debilitating disease causing fever, malaise, headache, myalgia, cough, nasal discharge and sneezing. Complications of influenza include bronchitis, otitis media, pneumonia, myocarditis, pericarditis or post-infection encephalitis. The disease can greatly affect a personís quality of life. Work, study, sporting commitments, socialising, holidays and family life can all be affected if a person contracts the disease.

In healthy people aged less than 65 years the influenza vaccine is 70%-90% effective. The vaccines have an excellent safety record. They are largely free from systemic effects but may cause local tenderness or soreness at the injection site for 1-2 days.

To protect persons that have a high risk of influenza morbidity it is recommended that people that come in to contact with them receive the influenza vaccine annually. This includes health care workers, nursing home staff and household members of high risk groups.

It is also recommended that persons who provide essential community services should be immunised to minimise the disruption of essential activities during influenza outbreaks.

Influenza usually has a short incubation period of one to three days. Immunity from vaccination may take two weeks to develop and the vaccine may not be effective in preventing the disease if the person has already been exposed to the virus.

Who should get immunised?

The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition recommends annual seasonal influenza vaccination for the following people:

Vaccination is recommended and funded for the following groups:

  • Adults aged 65 years and over,
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over,
  • Adults and children (6 months of age and over) with underlying medical conditions; and
  • Pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy.

Vaccination is recommended but not funded for the following groups;

  • People aged ≥ 6 months who live with a person who is at high risk of complications;
  • Residents of aged care facilities and other long term residential facilities;
  • Health-care providers, staff of aged care facilities and longer-term care facilities, and
  • Travellers — especially if travelling to areas of the world where influenza is currently circulating.

More information

For information on Tamiflu please read the Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) Fact sheet.

Additional information for bus drivers involved in an Influenza or Gastroenteritis outbreak can be found on the Bus driver Outbreak Information page.

Downloads

  • Information Sheet
Download: Influenza (Flu) Information Sheet (May 2014) (PDF File - 106k)
  • Postcard
Download: Influenza (Flu) Winter Postcard (PDF File - 69k)