Australia has a high level of flu activity right now, and while good hygiene can be helpful in protecting against the illness, a vaccination provides the best chance of your colleagues, employees and patients getting through ‘flu season’ without being debilitated.
The flu – what is it and why is it so debilitating?
More severe than a cold, and typically lasting a week or more, influenza (or simply ‘the flu’) is a contagious virus with varying levels of severity. Symptoms include fever, cough, body aches and extreme exhaustion.
While many of us might have experienced the flu at different stages in our lives, its severity and effect can be vastly different – ranging from a week of feeling quite ordinary, through to causing death in older at-risk people with lower immune systems. Throughout the colder months of April to August, ‘flu season’, influenza can bring life threatening complications to both older adults and young children.
The growth of flu vaccinations
Even though it is around mid-way through the flu season, there have already been almost 50,000 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases across Australia – with some states already exceeding the total number confirmed of cases in 2018.
This means it is becoming more and more important to be proactive and organise a flu vaccination for earlier in the year. And it appears as though Australians are acting on expert advice and taking these precautions more than ever before. This year across the Sigma Healthcare wholesale network, our influenza vaccine numbers are up by 35% from 2018. In addition to greater uptake of flu vaccines in general, this increase indicates a growing trend for in-pharmacy vaccinations – a level of ease of access that patients are enjoying.
‘While stocks last’
The most common circulating strains of flu change annually, so every year the formula needs to change to be able to best prevent infection. Because of the need to change the formulation year-on-year, vaccine manufacturers need to be ahead of the game and begin developing the following year’s formula quite early. Current year vaccines are only available for a certain amount of time before they must stop production and move on to the following year. This process requires wholesalers to pre-order their vaccines on behalf of pharmacy customers so that they know how much they need to produce ahead of time. All the while, pharmacists are continuing to administer flu vaccinations while stocks last.
This year has seen the launch of Amcal’s Corporate Flu Program – and the initiative is already off to a flying start. To help combat employee sick leave, absenteeism and loss of labour productivity, Amcal pharmacies are now offering businesses flexible times to have employees vaccinated so they can power through flu season. Access to other free in-pharmacy health programs are also available, including Heart Health Checks, Diabetes Risk Assessments, and Sleep Apnoea Screenings. Thanks to the partnership with Australian Vaccine Services, our Corporate Flu Program has seen new sign-ups every day – along with almost 10,000 vaccine vouchers in market.
What else can help?
Australian Guidelines recommend that all people over 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccination. However, there are more simple steps to consider.
- Wash your hands: good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent flu and other illnesses from spreading.
- Cover coughs and sneezes: cover your mouth and nose to avoid anything spreading.
- Bin your tissues: throw them in the rubbish bin immediately.
- Avoid sharing cups and cutlery: if you can, try not to.
- Keep surfaces clean: surfaces such as your keyboard, phone and door handles should be cleaned regularly.
- Self-care at home: if you are sick, stay home and treat your symptoms.
While antibiotics won’t help if you do contract the flu, there are antiviral medications available which can help shorten the duration of the illness. These are available via prescription from your doctor.
Pharmacists play a vital role by providing symptom relief medications like decongestants and pain relief – helping you feel better while you fight the infection.