Winter wellbeing and flu

Influenza (commonly known as ‘flu’) is a highly contagious viral infection. Flu can occur at any time throughout the year, but the number of cases usually increases during the winter months (often referred to as the ‘flu season’). Flu is spread person-to-person from coughs and sneezes and can cause life-threatening complications.

To protect yourself and those around you against the flu this season, get your yearly flu vaccination – it’s your best protection against the flu.

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged 6 month and older.

In the ACT, the flu vaccine is free for people at higher risk of complications from flu, including:

  • children aged 6 months to under 5 years,
  • pregnant women,
  • people aged 65 years and older,
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and older, and
  • people aged 6 months and older with underlying medical conditions.

Free flu vaccine for children under 5 years

The flu vaccine is free for children aged 6 months to under 5 years in the ACT. The flu vaccine is safe and cannot give your child influenza. In fact, a flu vaccine can save a child’s life.

Children are more likely to contract influenza and spread it than adults, and are at higher risk of serious related complications.

The best time to get your child vaccinated is before winter and the start of flu season.

Book an appointment for your child today.

  • Phone Community Health Intake 02 5124 9977 to make an appointment at an ACT Government Early Childhood Immunisation Clinic
  • Make an appointment with your GP (a consultation fee may be charged).

Children getting the flu vaccine for the first time will need two doses approximately four weeks apart. Book both doses at the same time so you don’t forget the second.

If you are sick

Stay home and remember to wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and put used tissues in the bin straight after use.

If you have flu-like symptoms and need medical care, you can visit your local GP or one of the ACT’s free Walk-in Centres.  

Know the facts about the flu vaccine

  • The best time to get the flu vaccine is before winter and flu season. It takes about two weeks to develop immunity following vaccination, then you’re most protected for 3 to 4 months.
  • You need to get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine changes each year to cover the latest strains of flu. The best way to protect yourself and the people around you from the flu is to get a yearly flu vaccine.
  • It’s not possible for the flu vaccine to give you influenza. The vaccine contains inactive strains of influenza. Sometimes the normal side effects of getting a vaccine feel similar to early flu symptoms. The side effects are a sign the vaccine is triggering an immune response, which is what it’s designed to do.
  • The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women. The flu vaccine is safe to have at any stage of pregnancy and will protect both mother and baby. Getting sick with influenza while pregnant can lead to serious complications. Influenza vaccination during pregnancy also protects babies after birth.
  • Even healthy people can get the flu. If you get influenza, or ‘the flu’, you can be sick for days with a fever, sore throat, aches and pains. You will likely miss days of child care, school or work. The flu can also be very serious for some people, and if you get it, you can spread it to others. Protect yourself and the people around you by getting vaccinated.
  • The flu is different to a common cold. Sometimes people mistake the ‘flu’ for a cold because some of the symptoms are similar. However, influenza is more severe and lasts longer than a cold. You will likely miss days of child care, school or work.

 

Staying Healthy this winter

Flu is highly contagious and spread from person-to-person. Even healthy people get the flu.

Some people, including young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic conditions are at higher risk of serious complications from the flu, including death.

What is the flu?

Influenza (commonly known as the ‘flu’) is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Cases of influenza are common throughout the year, but the number of cases increases significantly during the winter months.

What are symptoms of flu?

The most common symptoms of the flu are:

  • fever and chills
  • a cough, sore throat or runny nose
  • muscle aches, joint pains, headaches and fatigue (feeling tired)
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children than adults)

For more information about influenza – see our Influenza Fact Sheet

How can I limit the spread of flu?

If you become unwell with flu-like symptoms there are several things you can do to help stop spreading the flu to others. These include:

  • staying away from childcare, school, work and other social activities until you are well
  • covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and putting used tissues in the bin straight after use
  • using an alcohol based hand sanitiser, and/or washing your hands regularly with soap and water, and
  • seeking medical advice from your GP.

Have a look at our Have a Healthy Winter poster.

Get vaccinated

Having a yearly flu vaccination is your best protection against the flu.

Each year the flu vaccine changes to cover the latest strains to better protect you and your family from the flu.

Who should get vaccinated?

Everyone over 6 months and older should get a yearly flu vaccination to reduce their risk of getting the flu. If you live with, care for, or visit people who are at higher risk of severe flu such as children or the elderly, you should get vaccinated to minimise the chance of spreading it to them.

In the ACT flu vaccination is free* for:

  • people aged 65 years and over
  • pregnant women
  • all children aged 6 months to under 5 years
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over, and
  • people aged six months and over with certain underlying medical conditions such as severe asthma, heart or lung disease, diabetes and/or weakened immune systems.

*GPs may charge a consultation fee. You should check this with your GP at the time of booking.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Flu vaccination is available from your GP (all age groups), pharmacies (adults aged 18 years and over), ACT Health Early Childhood Immunisation Clinics (for children aged 6 months to under 5 years), ACT Health Antenatal Clinics (for pregnant women) and some workplaces. 

Provided by For People
  All children aged 6 months and to under 5 years Anyone aged 6 months and over with a medical condition that increases risk of Influenza complications Anyone aged 5 years and over not in any identified risk group Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over Pregnant women (at any stage of pregnancy) People aged 65years and over
GP Yes funded Yes funded Yes but not funded Yes funded Yes funded Yes funded
Pharmacy No Yes over 16 years but not funded Yes over 16 years but not funded Yes over 16 years but not funded No Yes funded
ACT Health Early Childhood Immunisation Clinics Yes funded (≥6 months - <5 years) Yes funded (≥6 months - <5 years) No Yes funded (≥6 months - <5 years) No No
ACT Health Antenatal Clinics No No No No Yes funded No

Pharmacies participating in the NIP Influenza Vaccine for 65 years and over Pilot Program 2019

Pharmacy

Address

Amcal Plus Chemist

 Shop 1, Benjamin Way  BELCONNEN, 2617

Capital Chemist Calwell

 Shop 14, Crn Were Street and Webber Cres CALWELL, 2905

Capital Chemist Charnwood

 Shop 7and 8 Lhotsky Street CHARNWOOD , 2615

Capital Chemist Chisholm

 Shop 7, Halley Street CHISHOLM, 2905

Capital Chemist Coombs

 110 Woodberry Avenue COOMBS, 2611

Capital Chemist Curtin

 38B Curtin Place  CURTIN, 2605

Capital Chemist Dickson

 2/6 Dickson Place  DICKSON , 2602

Capital Chemist Garran

 2 Garran Place GARRAN , 2605

Capital Chemist Hughes

 22 Hughes Place HUGHES, 2605

Capital Chemist Isabella Plains

 131 Ellerston Ave ISABELLA PLAINS, 2905

Capital Chemist Kambah

 Cnr Marconi Crescent and Primmer Court  KAMBAH, 2902

Capital Chemist Kingston

 62 Jardine Street KINGSTON , 2604

Capital Chemist Lyneham

 Wattle Street LYNEHAM, 2602

Capital Chemist O'Connor

 9 Sargood Street  O'CONNOR, 2602

Capital Chemist Palmerston

 Unit 6, Corner Kosciusko Ave and Tiptree Cres  PALMERSTON, 2913

Capital Chemist Southlands

 Shops 5-7 -  Mawson Place  MAWSON, 2607

Capital Chemist University of Canberra

 Shop 3 -  Cnr Allawoona Street and Ginninderra Drive BRUCE, 2617

Capital Chemist Wanniassa

 12 Sangster Place  WANNIASSA, 2903

Chemist on Northbourne

 Shop 2 - 65 Northbourne Ave  CANBERRA CITY , 2601

Chemist Outlet Dickson

 Unit 1/30-42 Dickson Place  DICKSON, 2602

Chemist Warehouse Majura Park

 18-26 Spitfire Ave MAJURA ACT , 2609

City Market Chemist

 Shop EGO1/EGO2 - Bunda Street  CANBERRA CITY, 2601

Colbee Court Chemist

 33 Colbee Court  PHILLIP, 2606

Cooleman Court Pharmacy

 Shop 5015 -  Brierly Street  WESTON , 2611

Develin's City Chemist

 Shop 3 and 4 - Garema Place  CANBERRA CITY , 2601

Discount Pharmacy Amaroo

 Pioneer Street AMAROO , 2914

Discount Pharmacy Belconnen

 Suite 5B - 1-5 CHANDLER STREET BELCONNEN , 2617

Discount Pharmacy Kambah

 Unit 1 and 2 - 9 JENKE CIRCUIT KAMBAH, 2902

Discount Pharmacy Macquarie

 Shop 2 and 3 - Lachlan Street MACQUARIE , 2614

Discount Pharmacy Mitchell

 Unit 2 - 141 Flemington Road MITCHELL , 2911

Erindale Pharmacy

 Shop 11 - Comrie Street WANNIASSA , 2903

Gowrie Discount Pharmacy

 Shop 3 - Jeffries Street  GOWRIE, 2904

Guardian Chemist

 Shop 107-108 Benjamin Way  Belconnen , 2617

Lanyon Pharmacy

 Shop 17 -  Cnr Box Hill Avenue and Tharwa Drive  CONDER, 2906

Mediadvice Pharmacy Ngunnawal

 Shop 5 - Wanganeen Ave  NGUNNAWAL ACT, 2913

Pharmasave Woden Pharmacy

 Shop 67 Lower Level - 2 Keltie Street  WODEN , 2606

Pharmsave Woden Pharmacy

 Shop 67 Lower Level - 2 Keltie Street  WODEN , 2606

Priceline Pharmacy Canberra Centre

 Shop CL15 -  CITY WALK   CANBERRA CITY , 2601

Priceline Pharmacy Casey

 24/25 - 15 Kingsland Parade  CASEY, 2912

Priceline Pharmacy Gungahlin

 Shop T126 -  Hibberson Street  GUNGAHLIN, 2912

Priceline Pharmacy Gungahlin Marketplace

 Shops 10 - 11 -  Hibberson Street  GUNGAHLIN , 2912

Priceline Pharmacy Manuka

 18-20 Franklin Street  MANUKA , 2603

Priceline Pharmacy Tuggeranong

 Shop 1410148 Anketell Street  MANUKA , 2900

Priceline Pharmacy Woden

 Shop G98 The Market -  Corinna Street  PHILLIP, 2606

Terry White Ainslie Pharmacy

 17 Edgar Street AINSLIE , 2602

 

Where can I get more information about influenza immunisation?

ACT Health have developed some useful resources:

For detailed information about influenza immunisation, please refer to the Influenza chapter in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.

For more information about Immunisation in the ACT, please see our Immunisation page.

Where to get medical advice

Please visit your GP or visit one of our free Walk-In Centres for medical advice.

If you have severe symptoms such as breathing difficulty or chest pain, call 000 immediately or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

Walk-In Centres

Walk-In Centres are free and provide treatment and health advice for one-off, minor injuries and illnesses. You don’t need to make an appointment.

Walk-In Centres are located in Tuggeranong and Belconnen and are open 7 days a week between 7:30am to 10pm.

Please see Walk-In Centre for more information.

GPs

Your GP provides the best continuity of care because they know your medical history and can refer you to additional healthcare professionals if needed.

GPs may also offer extended opening hours in the evenings and on weekends.

Please see Find a Health Service for more information.

Healthdirect

You can access health advice over the phone by calling Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or using Healthdirect’s Online Symptom Checker.

This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

National Home Doctor Service

The National Home Doctor Service offers access to after-hours bulk-billing GPs by calling 137 425 (13 SICK).

 

Flu in the ACT

ACT Health conducts surveillance for laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in the ACT. Each influenza season (approximately June/July to Sept/Oct), the Disease Surveillance Unit regularly prepares an influenza report which includes current data on influenza notifications in the ACT.

Winter wellness in aged care

Flu, influenza-like illness (ILI), and viral gastroenteritis (‘gastro’) infections occur across the ACT community, especially during the winter months. The elderly, particularly those living in aged care facilities, can be more vulnerable to these infections due to underlying medical conditions or medications that suppress their immune systems. A flu, ILI or gastro infection in an elderly resident may lead to functional decline, hospitalisation, and in some cases death.

Aged care facilities can be challenging environments for infection control, due to staff, residents and visitors moving throughout the facility and interacting with each other, residents sharing communal meals and other group activities, as well as shared spaces and people within close proximity.

It is important to be proactive to minimise transmission of ILI, flu and gastro in aged care settings. The risk of spreading flu can be reduced by residents, staff and visitors receiving the flu vaccine each year - see the Immunisation section below for more information. For other ways to protect elderly residents, see the preventing spread of infections in aged care section below.

Occasionally, outbreaks of ILI, flu and gastro occur in aged care facilities. When outbreaks occur, the facility is required to report these to ACT Health and implement outbreak precautions. 

Immunisation

Immunisation of all residents and staff (including nurses, aged care assistants, reception, laundry, cleaning, kitchen, volunteers etc.) can prevent illness and transmission in aged care settings. All staff in aged care facilities should get a flu vaccine each year before the flu season.

ACT Health have developed some resources to increase flu immunisation uptake among staff:

Posters and brochures are available for order from the Immunisation Unit on (02) 5124 9800.

There is an age-specific trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) available free to those aged 65 years and older. This vaccine is formulated to provide increased protection against influenza for older people, compared to the quadrivalent influenza vaccines (QIVs). While the QIVs are still available for people 65 years and over, vaccine experts recommend the specially-formulated TIV over the QIVs for this age group. The TIV will be available through GPs, and Walk in Centres.

For past Influenza reports please visit the flu in the ACT page.

More information about immunisation can be found on our immunisation page.

Preventing spread of infections in aged care

Family and friends should be reminded that they should not visit an aged care facility when they are unwell with any respiratory or gastro symptoms. Residents with symptoms will need to be isolated to prevent spreading the infection to other residents in the facility, and unwell staff should be excluded from work (see the Infection Control section for further details).

Cough and sneeze etiquette, as well as hand hygiene, should be promoted to residents, staff and visitors all year and especially during the cooler months. The following posters can be displayed around aged care facilities:

Recognising and reporting an outbreak

Over the winter months, when flu/ILI and gastro are more common in the community, outbreaks can occur in aged care facilities. Staff should be alert to any change in symptoms or behaviour among residents and remember that not all elderly residents will have a fever when they have ILI/flu or gastro. Any change in usual symptoms should be reported to the care manager/nurse in charge (or equivalent) of the facility.

Under the Public Health Act 1997, aged care facilities are required to notify CDC if they have:

  • three or more cases of ILI** among residents and/or staff in a 72 hour period
  • two or more cases of gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and/or vomiting) among residents and/or staff in a 24 hour period

More information about notifiable disease reporting and surveillance is available here.

**ILI case definition:

Sudden onset of symptoms

AND at least one of the following respiratory symptoms:

 

  • Cough (new or worsening)
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath

AND at least one of the following systemic symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Malaise (discomfort)
  • Headache
  • Myalgia (muscle pain)

To report an outbreak or seek advice please call the Communicable Disease Control Section on 5124 9213.

Other resources to assist you during an outbreak of ILI or gastro in an aged care setting:

Infection control

Ensuring appropriate infection control practices are adhered to year round will limit the spread of infectious diseases in an aged care facility. The most important infection control practices are effective hand hygiene, isolation of ill residents, and exclusion of sick staff. Other infection control measures include appropriate cough and sneeze etiquette and use of personal protective equipment, visitor restrictions and effective environmental cleaning.

Infection control is vital to minimising transmission and controlling outbreaks of ILI and gastro in aged care facilities. To effectively manage a communicable disease outbreak, you may need to implement additional infection control practices, increase the frequency and efficiency of environmental cleaning using appropriate products, and restrict the movement of patients, staff and visitors.

For advice about infection control, you can call the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Information Line on 02 5124 9213 and ask for a member of the Infection Control team.

Unwell residents must be isolated to prevent spread to other residents. Residents with influenza must be isolated for 5 days from onset of symptoms. The isolation period for other viral respiratory infections may be longer than influenza – please call the CDC for advice on 5124 9213. Residents with gastro symptoms require isolation for the duration of their symptoms as well for 48 hours after their last symptom. Staff with symptoms of gastro or ILI/flu should be excluded from work for the same isolation periods.  

Resources to assist with infection control in an aged care setting:

Additional resources for outbreak management and infection control

For further information about outbreak management and infection control, please visit:

In May 2018, CDC hosted an Aged Care Forum. The presentations from the forum are available here:

Page last updated on: 24 May 2019