The flu and you

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We’re entering the 2024 winter flu season in Queensland and we want to remind you of the best way to stay healthy. There’s also some useful data to quote, if you want to impress people over coffee, or right before your yoga class begins.

First of all, some fun flu facts

Cold vs flu. What’s the difference? Colds and the flu (influenza) are both viral respiratory illnesses. They're caused by different viruses, but have similar symptoms, and it can be tricky to sort out which is which. In general, colds are milder, while flu symptoms are more intense. The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that infects and damages your upper airways and lungs, via viral protein production and immune system response. You may have a high fever and body aches if you have the flu, and it can sometimes lead to pneumonia, inflammation of the heart muscle, neurological problems and, yes, death. Both cold and flu symptoms generally last about a week, with varying intensity. As long as you have symptoms, you’re contagious. Remember, don’t come to work if you think you’ve got the flu, and minimise contact with other people.

So, what can you do?

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine or your annual vaccine booster. The best time to get vaccinated is at the beginning of flu season which in Queensland is generally May to September – with peaks in August. Of course, getting vaccinated at some point during those months is better than not getting vaccinated at all. Vaccines are modified annually based on predictions of what strains of the flu might appear in populations. About two weeks after you get vaccinated, your immune system develops antibodies that protect against infection from flu viruses. However, remember that flu vaccines will not protect you from colds, COVID-19, or other flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses. And you can still potentially get the flu, even after vaccination.

The other best thing you can dois to maintain a good level of overall health and wellness. Maintain good hygiene, hand-washing practices and wear a mask if you need to. To ease symptoms of the flu, you can follow the same treatment steps as the common cold: plenty of rest and fluids and taking medications to help with any fever and pain you might feel. Stay in bed and read a book or binge-watch season one of that show you’ve put off watching. You might even make it through season two. And consider getting a booster dose every year from this point forward.

Did you know?

All Queensland residents over the age of 6 months can receive the influenza vaccine for free in 2024.

Some data, for those that like that kind of thing:

  • The 2023 influenza season was characterised by an early peak and longer duration. Influenza vaccine coverage rates were lower in 2023 than in 2022, and lower overall in First Nations peoples and children (source Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care).
  • 21,457 people had been diagnosed with influenza between 1st July 2023 and 1st September 2023 across Queensland, including 121 infants under 6 months (source: Queensland Health).
  • In Australia, between period January 1st to August 31st there were 273 deaths due to influenza. Of the 273 deaths due to influenza, 71% were certified between May and July, coinciding with peak influenza activity in Australia (source: Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care).