Illawarra GPs urge flu vaccinations

An Illawarra GP has urged those at risk of flu complications to get vaccinated, with new flu strains expected to circulate this season.

Dr Helen Rienits, of Shell Cove Family Health, said the 2014 seasonal influenza vaccine was designed to protect against three new strains of the influenza virus.

"Health experts aren't expecting a flu pandemic this season, however, all of the viruses we are expecting in Australia are new viruses to the community," she said. "So it's important for people, even those who've had flu shots in previous years, to get vaccinated."

Dr Rienits said the vaccine was free for those most at risk, including people aged over 65, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander residents over 15, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions.

She countered the common misconception people could contract flu from the vaccine.

"The flu vaccine does not contain live viruses so it's impossible to get the flu from it."

Flu is highly contagious and is responsible for more than 18,000 hospitalisations in Australia each year due to complications such as bronchitis, croup and pneumonia.

"Anyone can get the flu and even if you don't fall into the high-risk categories, you should still think about seeing your GP for the vaccination," Dr Rienits said.

"A common cold can make you feel rotten for a day or two, but flu symptoms are far more severe with aches and pains, high fevers and fatigue lasting for around 10 days."


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