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Protecting ourselves and those around us

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Protecting ourselves and those around us

In Australia, influenza causes between 1500 and 3500 deaths, about 18 000 hospitalisations and 300 000 GP consultations each year. This adds up to an estimated cost to the Australian healthcare system of about 85 million dollars.

How do we protect ourselves effectively from contracting and spreading the flu?

The single most effective way is vaccination.

We know the vaccine is not perfect in that it doesn’t offer 100 per cent protection for everyone, but remains the single best way people can protect themselves from the infection. It’s often hard to picture but it’s important to consider that protecting yourself, while obviously a good thing to do, also protects all the people to whom you could have potentially passed the infection.

This includes some of our most vulnerable groups … babies, children under the age of five, those people undergoing treatment which compromises their immune systems (such as chemotherapy), pregnant women, and the elderly.

So, what’s the most common myth I hear about the vaccine? People believing they contracted the ‘flu’ from the vaccine. This is actually not possible as the vaccine does not contain any live virus. What is likely happening is a mild expected response to the vaccine which settles very quickly; or possibly an infection with a completely different type of virus that is purely coincidental and is not connected to receiving the flu vaccine.

If you do get the flu (or any respiratory virus) there are some important things you can do to reduce the chance of passing it on to others. The first is to stay away from work (or any other large groups of people). Turning up for work might seem like the right thing to do, but this could result in spreading the virus to numerous colleagues (who could then spread it on to others). This is even more important for healthcare workers, who are at a greater risk of spreading the flu, including to patients within the above groups.

How else can you stop the spread of ‘flu’? Easy! Simple hand-washing is a really important way of not passing the virus on to others. Soap and water as well as alcohol based hand rubs both do a good job of reducing the amount of virus you could potentially transmit to others.

What’s the most common question I am asked? I’m often asked if antibiotics will help treat the flu. Influenza is a virus and as antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, antibiotics don’t do anything for the flu. If people take antibiotics for the flu they are risking consequences including side effects and allergic reactions, other infections, and helping create resistant bacteria without any possible benefit.

If you do contract the flu, the best course of action is to rest, keep warm, stay hydrated, and if you develop a fever, take paracetamol (but make sure you follow the guidelines listed on the packaging).

At Mater, we know that protecting others starts with us. As we enter the 2017 flu season, we will be working to keep our patients, visitors, colleague and community safe by being vaccinated against the flu.

Dr Paul Griffin, Director of Infectious Diseases

Posted: 18/04/2017 10:33:47 AM by News @ Mater | with 0 comments

Tags: Dr Paul Griffin, SafeQuest