#AskDocQ: Why You Shouldn’t Put Off That Flu Shot Any Longer


Did you know that the influenza world pandemic of 1918 killed more people than the entire First World War?

Nearly 40 million people died from the flu virus and its complications, and most of the victims were young people, because they were the people most likely to catch it, being out and about. You see, even healthy people can die from influenza, and they still do right here in Australia every year.

Influenza is a viral infection which comes on suddenly with fever, sneezing, coughing, body ache, headache and extreme tiredness. You don’t always get all the symptoms, but almost everyone will feel really sick, sometimes unable to even get out of bed, it can last for up to 2 weeks. Antibiotics don’t work against it.

There is an anti-flu medication but it is only effective if started within a couple of days of the onset of symptoms, and gives only partial relief.

The best way to beat the flu is to avoid catching it in the first place! This year’s flu vaccine is now available and will provide some protection against the prevalent strains. It’s not a perfect
vaccine, and can’t offer complete protection, but it’s the best chance you have of avoiding the flu.

Having a healthy lifestyle is also great, but won’t stop you getting infected.

There is a common misconception that the flu shot can give you the flu. It can’t, as it doesn’t contain any infectious ingredients. However, you might feel a bit achey straight after it.

The reason there is a new vaccine every year is that the virus keeps mutating, so you can’t retain immunity to it. Every year in Australia a small number of people including children die from influenza.

The infection can be more serious if you have other medical conditions, so the vaccine is provided free of charge to those at greatest risk of complications – people over 65, children under 5, diabetics, people with HIV or other causes of immunosuppression, those with heart disease or severe asthma.

The vaccine is available to anyone over 6 months of age, and I recommend that everyone have it, but especially if you are in a risk group, are a frequent traveller, or if you just don’t fancy spending a miserable week or 2 in bed.

I’ve already seen my first case of Influenza A for the season, so there’s no time like the present to get vaccinated with the flu shot – I’ve had mine!

Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBT health. For more details about any of these topics, visit Dr Fiona Bisshop’s website here or contact her on Twitter.

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Dr Fiona Bisshop

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