What is Influenza & Should I get a Flu Shot?
Influenza is a potentially serious infection of the respiratory tract, caused by the influenza virus. It can present with mild symptoms, however a significant number of people infected will develop more serious symptoms, including bronchitis, croup, pneumonia, ear infections, organ failure, brain inflammation and death (2).
Due to the high infection rate and the potential for serious injury, Influenza is a notifiable disease, meaning that when a healthcare professional confirms the diagnosis of influenza, they must report the infection to the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS). Last year, over 300,000 cases of Influenza were reported to the NNDSS, with over 900 deaths associated with the disease. The rate of infection is steadily increasing, with more and more infections each year.
What is the difference between Influenza, and the common cold?
Symptoms of Influenza include runny nose, cough or sore throat, fever or chills, headache, muscle or joint aches, vomiting and diarrhoea, especially in children. While many of these symptoms are similar to colds, the symptoms of a cold are generally less severe. Colds often present with sneezing, and a particularly runny nose, while Influenza is likely to have aches, fever and fatigue (4).
Colds are caused by a variety of viral infections, most commonly a rhinovirus. Most colds have mild symptoms, requiring only rest and hydration. Many people often mistake their cold for seasonal allergies.
Antibiotics are not used to manage either the flu or colds. Both are viral respiratory infections, and antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. If you have a severe infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection, such as Streptococcus, while your immune system is weakened.
There is no immunisation for colds, as they are caused by a wide variety of virus. There is a vaccine for Influenza, which protects against the four main strains of the influenza virus.
Should I get the Flu vaccine?
In short, yes.
The flu vaccine is safe, effective and cheap. It protects against illness and injury, and helps keep vulnerable members of our community safe. The Australian government recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months old get the flu vaccine each year, and provides free vaccines to many Australians (2).
You should have the flu shot at the beginning of the season, around April or May, to achieve the best protection
The flu vaccines used in Australia are ‘inactive’ vaccines, meaning they contain no live virus, or recombinant vaccines, meaning they contain no viral particles at all. Recombinant vaccines are a produced by isolating the antigens from a virus, isolating them and recombining them into a vaccine. You do not get a ‘mini flu’ from the type of vaccines used in Australia. Some people do have side effects however, such as headache, muscle soreness, nausea, or localised pain at the injection site.
Links between autism and vaccines have been conclusively disproven. Studies of over 500,000 participants, over 20 years, have provided strong evidence that there was no relation between autism and vaccines (5).
The most common vaccines used in Australia use an egg based protein, so if you have egg allergy, inform your immuniser, so they can organise and alternative.
In 2020 Colmed Immune is offering the following vaccines:
1. Historic Influenza Statistics – Immunisation Coalition 2020 [Available from: https://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/news-media/historic-influenza-statistics/.
2. Flu (influenza) immunisation service | Australian Government Department of Health. In: Health Do, editor. 2020.
3. Australia H. Cold or flu? (infographic). In: Health Do, editor. 2020.
4. Influenza (flu) | The Australian Immunisation Handbook. In: Health Do, editor. 2018.
5. Hviid A, Hansen JV, Frisch M, Melbye M. Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccination and Autism: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2019;170(8):513-20.