It is that time of the year again when the days start to shorten, the temperature drops and those nasty flu symptoms rear their head, that is right the start of “flu season”. Nearly all of us will experience “the flu” or some variation of the influenza virus at some point in our lives, how it affects us may vary from mild symptoms to extremely severe and possibly life-threatening outcomes. But they can all be prevented by a simple vaccination each year from one of many healthcare professionals allowing us the beat the flu this season.
Vaccination has been demonstrated to be one of the most effective ways to prevent the flu and the most cost-effective public health interventions. Worldwide, it has been estimated that immunisation programs prevent approximately two to three million deaths each year (https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/immunization) . Vaccination not only protects individuals, but also protects others in the community by increasing the overall level of immunity in the population and thus minimising the spread of infection. This concept is known as ‘herd immunity’. At Brassall Pharmacy we offer all our customers the chance to have their “flu Vaccine” administered in the pharmacy each year to help protect our local community.
What is Influenza?
Influenza is an extremely contagious virus which affects our airways. There are several influenza virus strains, these fall under subtypes such as influenza A, B or even C. Most of the influenza cases in Australia each year come from either the influenza A or B strains. The influenza viruses are more likely to occur in the winter months, however they can occur at other times of the year, therefore vaccinations play key role in reducing the effects of influenza so we can all beat the flu this season.
What are the signs of influenza? The signs and symptoms of “The Flu” are:
- a sore throat
- dry cough
- muscle or joint pain
- and tiredness or exhaustion.
When we look at the signs and symptoms above, we can experience most of these with the rhinovirus also known as “the common cold”. However, the severity of some of these influenza symptoms are to a greater extent more severe especially fever, headaches and muscle aches and pains. If you are ever unsure about the symptoms you are experiencing, be sure to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment if needed. This way we can limit the spread of these viruses and protect our community.
How do I get Influenza?
The influenza virus is spread via an infected person coughing and sneezing, allowing airborne droplets to be passed from one person to another. These airborne droplets can also contaminate surfaces which an infected person has come into contact with. A person infected with the influenza virus is contagious from 24hrs prior to exhibiting symptoms and this can last for up to a week after that. Certain members of the community are more susceptible than others to influenza due them having a weaker immune system, these people are primarily the elderly and young children. Because these people have weaker immune response to these types of viruses they tend to take longer to recover and are contagious for longer. Whilst most people recover from influenza without any major issues these more vulnerable people are at risk of developing serious conditions such as:
- ear infections
- heart and other organ damage
- brain inflammation and brain damage
What can I do to reduce my risk of getting influenza and beat the flu this season?
Having been through a global pandemic over the last year we have all come to realise the best defence against the spread of viruses is practising good hand and respiratory hygiene. So, making sure we wash our hands after touching foreign surfaces, after close personal contact with others, prior to consuming food and beverages. When we experience respiratory symptoms such as a cough or sneeze, making sure we cover our mouths or nose by directing the cough or sneeze into our elbow and not our hands which offer a great way of potentially spreading the virus. Whilst these seem like common sense and should be an everyday practise, we all can be a little complacent and forget to implement these basic habits. However, the most effective and scientifically proven way of reducing the spread of influenza is getting vaccinated every year. The Flu vaccine is readily available in Australia starting from April, and local community pharmacies like Brassall Pharmacy offer an instore vaccination service which includes the yearly Flu Vaccine, so why not beat the flu this season and get yours today.
What is in the flu vaccine?
The Flu vaccine is comprised of four different influenza viruses, two are from the influenza A subgroup and two from the influenza B subgroup of viruses. These viruses are inactivated, which means the viruses are rendered inactive by using a compound which essentially kills the virus. However, there is enough of the genetic material from the virus still left to allow our body’s own immune systems to recognise it as “foreign or different” and then starts producing antibodies. This way if we do come into contact with one of these influenza viruses then our bodies immune system is prepared to protect us. Why do we need four influenza viruses for the flu vaccine? Because of the nature of the influenza virus and its ability to spread extremely easily the virus can mutate and change producing new strains which may be more contagious and possibly more deadly. So, each year these viruses are recorded and studied to identify which ones we should be immunising ourselves against for the next flu season.
What can you expect after vaccination?
Immunisations are effective and safe, although all medication and vaccines can have unwanted side effects, and this can also happen with the flu vaccine. Some people may experience a reaction to a vaccine, but these are extremely rare. In virtually all cases, immunisation side effects are not as serious as the symptoms someone would experience if they were to contract the disease.
The side effects can include:
- A Mild Fever
- Pain, redness, irritation and bruising at the injections site
- Muscle aches and pains
- Tiredness or lethargy
All these symptoms if they do occur will present within six to twelve hours after vaccination and can last up to 48 hours after vaccination. In the event they do present we can relieve them with simple measure such as rest, staying hydrated and the administration of paracetamol to help reduce a temperature if needed.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Every single person who is able should get vaccinated against influenza. This helps our communities build herd immunity, as mentioned above. In doing this we protect those in our community who are more vulnerable to developing serious diseases as a result of influenza. There are certain people in the community that can receive the flu vaccine for free through their doctor and these people are:
- All Aboriginal and Torres Striate Islanders who are 6 months or older
- Children who are aged 6 months to 5 years old
- People age 6 months or older who have a chronic medical condition which predisposes them to influenza
- Pregnant women
- People age 65 years and older
Everyone one else will have to pay a small charge for their vaccine; however, this is nothing compared to the ongoing medical costs from a chronic disease as a result of being infected with influenza, not to mention the peace of mind knowing you have protected yourself and your loved ones.
Can I get the “Flu Vaccine” if I have allergies?
Depending on the type of allergy you have it may be completely safe for you to have the flu vaccine. However, people who have a history of anaphylaxis to a known ingredient in the vaccine should avoid it. One of the biggest points of confusion around allergies and the flu vaccine is if someone has an egg allergy. Whilst most flu vaccines are produced by growing the virus in a hen’s egg the amount of egg ovalbumin (egg protein) after the purification process in less than 1 microgram, which is substantially less than the 130 micrograms actually needed to cause a reaction (https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/egg-allergy-flu-vaccine) . So, it is perfectly safe for people with egg allergies to receive the flu vaccine. If you have an egg allergy and are still hesitant be sure to talk to your healthcare professional to alleviate your concerns. Alternatively, this year has seen the introduction of a new type of flu vaccine called “Flucelvax” which referred to as cell-based vaccine. This vaccine uses cells cultured from mammalian animals rather than hen’s eggs, leaving the vaccine free of egg protein. Whilst this vaccine is relatively new it is hypothesised that there may be the potential for these vaccines to offer better protection against the influenza virus than the original egg-based vaccines. In say that with anything new and exciting comes an added price, so be sure to talk to your healthcare professionals to find the best fit for you to beat the flu this season.
If we look back at the last year and how the global pandemic has affected all our lives both here in Australia and all around the world, it makes sense to help reduce the burden on our already strained healthcare systems by being vaccinated against influenza. We know from decades of data that vaccination against influenza has been scientifically proven to be the most effective measure we can implement to aid our healthcare system and professionals. So be proactive this year and lets beat the flu this season by getting vaccinated at Brassall Pharmacy. Book online now to reserve your spot https://brassall-pharmacy.pharmacybookings.com.au