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This year’s flu vaccine has just been released and is available now for all Australian Citizens.

Should you have the flu vaccine?

Dr Ross Walker
26 March 2014

by Ross Walker

This year’s flu vaccine has just been released and is available now for all Australian Citizens. The question for everyone is ‘who should have the vaccine?’ Unfortunately, this year’s influenza has affected five times more people in the first two months of the year than it usually does and today there have been 2,500 reported cases across Australia. Queensland has topped the list with 905, NSW 502, Victoria 394, South Australia 314 and Tasmania 37 and the ACT 34. I do not have data for the Northern Territory. Interestingly, when you look at the statistics, 80% of people over the age of 65 do have the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is free for this age group and also for all people with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, asthma and other respiratory diseases, diabetes, kidney disease, cigarette smokers (why anyone would do this is beyond me), the obese and pregnant women. Unfortunately only 30-40% of people in this group have a regular flu vaccine. The problem with the particular virus this year is that it is a re-emergence of a somewhat altered Swine Flu which is the H1N1 virus. The flu vaccine covers you for this particular virus, another  Influenza A virus and the Influenza B virus. Unfortunately the winter season just suffered in the USA saw 60% of the deaths from this new form of Swine Flu killed people below the age of 65. So rather than just recommend the vaccination for people in the groups mentioned it is probably best that we all consider having the vaccine. The problem for young people is that this virus seems to cause quite marked respiratory problems, somewhere between 3-6 days after experiencing the initial flu. The H1N1 Swine flu in 2009 killed around 18,000 people but by 2012 there were some suggestions that around  600,000 deaths had occurred, particularly in Africa and South East Asia.

A study performed last year showed clearly that people over the age of 55, especially if they were at high risk for heart disease who had a yearly flu vaccination, reduced their risk for a heart attack by 50%. The reason for this is based on what I spoke about in a recent article, i.e. influenza causes such overwhelming inflammation in the body that this inflammation can precipitate the rupture of a fatty plaque and thus lead to a heart attack.

Regardless, having a small relatively painless jab in the arm may prevent you from all of these nasty complications and even if you don’t develop pneumonia or a heart attack as a consequence of influenza, it could also mean that you have one to two weeks off work, not to mention the dreadful way you feel for this period.

I personally am prone to develop influenza so I have my yearly flu jab. I had mine last Thursday and have had a very minor reaction and it has not affected me too much but certainly I am delighted it is relatively certain that I won’t develop the dreadful disease that is influenza.

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