Deadly flu year a reminder to be vaccinated

Patient in hospital bed

It was a devastating year for the flu across many parts of Australia, with Tasmania one of the worst hit states.

Newly released federal government figures revealed there were 3505 cases of influenza across the state in 2017, compared to 1055 in 2016.

There were 21 deaths from the flu in Tasmania last year, including six at an aged care facility in the North-West.

The Examiner ran an in-depth two-part Q&A with infectious diseases expert Dr Katie Flanagan in October last year, after the deadly flu season.

She said there were a number of potential factors that could have contributed to the severe outbreak.

One was around vaccination.

In some cases, Dr Flanagan said the vaccine may have been given to people too early.

Studies have shown immunity from vaccinations last about four months, so jabs given in February would have been wearing off by August/September when the flu hit badly.

Experts tend to cautiously recommend people vaccinate against the flu about mid-May in Australia.

Dr Flanagan said sporadic cases of influenza occurred all-year-round, so people had to be careful with recommendations, but that mid-May seemed a more appropriate time.

Tasmania rates relatively well with vaccination uptake in relation to the recommendations of the national immunisation program. However, the push doesn’t seem to be there as much for healthy adults and healthy children.

The idea of contracting the flu may not phase some healthy people. But the problem then arises when people carry and spread the virus.

For those in the community with weaker immune systems, including the elderly and people with immune-weakening diseases, that spread can be deadly.

While vaccinations are not a 100 per guarantee against the flu, with strains mutating and other contributing factors, it is still recommended that people who are able to be vaccinated, are.

Many people with those weakened immune systems are at risk during the flu season, and have to plan their lives around staying safe while viruses are spreading.

If you don’t usually vaccinate against the flu, consider this year who you might be putting at risk by potentially contracting and spreading the disease.

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