How to avoid getting the flu

Did you know that six million doses of the influenza (flu) vaccine have been secured for Australians who are most at risk of getting sick during the flu season?

Already GPs are reporting an early season spike in people presenting with flu symptoms, which is a worrying trend for the number of cases we may see this year.

Already for 2019, the flu outbreak has killed 17 people in South Australia and locked down several nursing homes. 

What is influenza?

The flu is a viral infection that is spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.

The most common symptoms are:

  • High fever
  • Dry cough
  • Body aches
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Symptoms of the flu hit quickly and usually follow a pattern:

  • Days 1-3: Sudden fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, dry cough, sore throat and a stuffy nose.
  • Day 4: Fever and muscle aches decrease. Hoarse, dry or sore throat, cough and possible mild chest discomfort. You will feel tired or flat.
  • Day 8: Symptoms decrease; however your cough and tiredness may continue for a couple of weeks.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
While the cold and flu are both viral respiratory illnesses with some similar symptoms, they are caused by different viruses.

Influenza is a lot more serious and can be deadly. 

You are more likely to have a runny nose or nasal congestion, sneezing, sore throat and a mild cough if you have a cold.

It is important to note that antibiotics don’t work against a cold or flu as these are prescribed for bacterial infections.

How do I avoid getting the flu?
The best way to avoid getting influenza is by immunising against it.

It is important to get vaccinated each year as the flu virus changes and protection provided by the previous year’s vaccines is known to diminish over time.  

The influenza vaccine is recommended for anyone aged six months and over and is provided for free for those most at risk of influenza and its complications.

Remember that it can take two to three weeks after your flu injection for immunity to develop.

Individuals can access vaccines through their GP, local pharmacies and nurse immunisation clinics.

Other ways to avoid getting the flu include good personal hygiene practices. Wash your hands with soap and warm water and always keep disinfectant wipes and gels close by. 

Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a new tissue every time you cough and sneeze. When an infected person breathes, talks, coughs and sneezes the virus can be spread.

If you are sick or are showing flu-like symptoms it is best to keep your distance from others and do not go to work. 

Make sure you drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost by fever and get plenty of rest and sleep.

For more information about influenza, please speak to your medical practitioner.

Want to make a difference – why not sign up for FluTracking?

FluTracking is an online health surveillance system that that tracks the spread of influenza across Australia and New Zealand.

It takes just 10 seconds a week to answer two simple questions that can help track the flu around Australia. 

All information you provide is confidential. For more information, visit

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