Influenza and pneumonia, which can develop from flu, are the primary causes of death for about 2.5 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, mostly adults.
The risk increases if you’re over 50, or if you’re considered high-risk, which includes people who have diabetes or renal disease or drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Indigenous adults aged over 50 years are twice as likely as non-Indigenous adults to be hospitalised or even die from influenza (flu) or pneumonia.
Fortunately, annual vaccination is available to help prevent flu.
Even better, the flu vaccination is free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 50 and over. It’s also free if you’re aged 15-49 and considered high risk (if you smoke, have heart, lung or kidney disease, severe asthma, diabetes or other problems causing reduced immunity).
Now, before winter, is the time to get your flu shot. Even if you had the flu vaccination last year, you should get revaccinated each year before winter (or in Feb, March or April in the NT). That’s because the vaccine is changed each year to combat the latest strain of flu that’s going around.
Flu vaccination is usually by injection, normally given in the arm. The vaccination actually is made up of three different flu viruses.
The three strains are chosen by medical professionals working in laboratories around the world.
They collect flu viruses and try to predict which strains will be most prevalent in the coming flu season. The viruses in the shot are inactivated, or dead, which means they can’t actually give you the flu.
Your body recognizes the flu viruses in the vaccination as foreign invaders and produces antibodies to fight it. The next time your body encounters the flu virus, it will remember that it is a hostile invader and quickly launch an immune attack to kill off the virus.
Vaccination programs are also in place for babies and young children for these diseases, but the vaccines differ from those available for adults.
For more information about flu vaccines, speak to your local AMS or doctor.