Bendigo Health is urging Central Victorians to vaccinate themselves against influenza ahead of the impending flu season.
Interseasonal flu has increased presentations to Bendigo Health's emergency department in recent months, with, on average, three people seen each week.
Victorian health department figures show almost 7,000 confirmed flu cases across Victoria this year – an increase of around 500 per cent from the same time last year.
Bendigo Health Director of Infection Prevention Control, Jane Hellsten said ‘herd immunity’ would helped protect people unable to have the vaccination, like those undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
“Don’t delay, if you haven’t had it, get it. It’s not safe to delay because we’ve had more interseasonal flu this year,” she said.
Ms Hellsten said a common misconception was that the flu shot gave you the flu.
“It’s not a live virus. It’s the time of year when we catch flus and colds, so when people are coming in for their vaccination they could be already incubating a virus, so if you start developing symptoms a couple of days after getting a flu vaccination you are likely to blame that,” she said.
“The flu is marked by headaches, muscle aches and pains, joint pains and respiratory symptoms but with a common cold you don’t tend to get those symptoms of general malaise and aches and pains and headaches like you do with the influenza virus.”
Bendigo Health Infectious Diseases Physician, Dr Andrew Mahony said the flu tended to be more prevalent in colder, winter months when more people congregate together.
“We know that the flu vaccine protects for 50-60 per cent of people which compares pretty poorly with other vaccinations but that’s not to say you shouldn’t get the vaccine because without the vaccine you’ve got zero chance of protection,” he said.
Young infants, pregnant women and people aged 65 and over are considered at risk groups in the community.
Bendigo Health does not provide the flu vaccination to the general public but it’s available at most GPs and pharmacies.