It feels like the flu season arrives earlier each year, which makes it difficult to predict the best time to get vaccinated and the peak season for flu cases.
By April 30, 2023, we have had more than 32,000 flu cases reported in Australia, according to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
For those with a lowered immune system, or existing medical conditions, the flu can have devastating and serious outcomes; and can even cause death. It is typically most serious for the elderly and young children.
Every year the flu puts incredible pressure on our hospital system with so many infected people. There are more than 3500 avoidable deaths each year because of complications from seasonal flu.
The 2023 early flu season mirrors last year’s pattern when influenza cases rose sharply in May and peaked by June. In the five years prior to COVID-19, the flu season was typically around July and August, and waning by October.
Some of the reasons for the earlier rise in flu cases in 2023 is due to the flu season peaking in the northern hemisphere in December 2022, which is two months earlier than usual. Traveler's arriving in Australia or returning from overseas holidays have, unfortunately, been bringing influenza into the country for several months.
The other point of difference is that during COVID-19 there were mandates to wear masks and social-distancing restrictions, which resulted in lower flu cases. Coupled with the fact that there has been a lower flu vaccination uptake, community immunity this winter is likely to be less than in pre-Covid times.
Look out for signs of the flu
There are several common symptoms of the flu virus, such as:
- Dry cough
- Body aches
- Fever and high temperatures
Your symptoms may appear very quickly and last between one to three weeks, depending on the severity of the infection and whether you have received a vaccination for the current strain.
COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccine
Just like the flu vaccine, COVID-19 boosters can be part of your annual vaccination schedule. Influenza vaccines can be given on the same day as a COVID-19 vaccine.
There is no set timeframe to wait between having a COVID-19 infection and then getting the influenza vaccine. Once you are feeling well and have no fever, you may receive an influenza vaccine.
Where to get the flu vaccine?
The current vaccine is now available at your General Practitioner or Pharmacy.
It is possible to catch the flu even if you are vaccinated, however it should reduce the length and severity of the illness, especially if you are in one of the at-risk groups.
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