Be Smart About Flu
Protect yourselves and others from catching the flu
To get vaccinated against influenza is the single best prevention for yourself and others.
Annual flu vaccination is the best way to prevent yourself from getting the flu, and from then passing it on to someone else. Flu vaccination is very important for people who are at-risk of complications from influenza, and for those in close contact with at-risk people (link to who’s at risk).
The flu is very easy to spread, especially when in close contact with other people. You can catch it when an infected person coughs or sneezes as they release small virus-containing droplets into the air. It’s also important to remember that touching contaminated surfaces (including a persons hands) and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes can also lead to infection.
You can limit the spread of influenza during flu season by practising good household and personal hygiene, avoiding close contact with others (at least one metre apart) if you or they are ill, and covering your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing. Try not to use your hand to cover your mouth as you are likely to then touch something and spread the virus further.
Influenza: the bad news
Influenza viruses can survive an hour or more in enclosed environments or surfaces, which means we can pick up the virus even without someone coughing or sneezing near us.
Even before we display the virus symptoms, we can be spreading the influenza viruses, which may infect people around us.
Influenza viruses are characterised by constant evolution, which can change their characteristics. Influenza type A, Influenza type B flu (and so on) are constantly changing. This means they can be a new threat every year. The flu vaccination will only protect you from the recent strain of the flu. This is why yearly vaccinations are essential in preventing flu.
The good news – you can protect yourself and others by being flu smart!
- Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette!
- Turn away from other people
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve
- Use disposable tissues rather than a handkerchief (which could store the virus)
- Put used tissues into the nearest bin, rather than a pocket or handbag
- Wash your hands or use an alcohol hand rub as soon as possible afterwards.
- Hand washing can limit the spread of influenza and other respiratory virus infections. Always wash your hands – even when they are not visibly dirty:
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
- After being in contact with someone who has a cold or flu
- Before touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Before preparing food and eating.
The best way to kill the flu virus is to wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based product (gels, rinses, foams) that doesn’t require water.
Stop the spread of cold and flu in your household: As flu viruses can survive for more than eight hours on hard surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic, you should regularly clean frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, taps, tables, benches and fridge doors. Flu viruses can be removed with normal household detergents.
Keep any personal items such as towels, bedding and toothbrushes separate. Do not share eating and drinking utensils, food or drinks.
Prescription antiviral medications are only effective if they have been taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
Each year, the Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee (AIVC) determines an up to date influenza vaccine formulation based on the most recent virus strains.
Annual vaccination reduces the risk of contracting influenza and severity of symptoms.
Protection through vaccination
Influenza vaccines help to protect our community from the virus and its severe consequences. The flu injection is up to 70% effective in young healthy adults and at least 70% effective in children. In older adults, vaccines can be less effective depending on their health (30 to 80%); however, older adults are at greater risk of complications from influenza so are advised to take precautions.
- You cannot get the flu from the vaccination.
- Influenza is a highly contagious disease that kills more Australians per year than road accidents.
- People with a chronic disease have forty times the risk of death from influenza.