March 2014: Over 100 people have been admitted to hospital with swine flu in Queensland already this year - double the number for the same period last year.
85% of influenza notifications in Queensland are H1N1 virus (swine flu). Courier Mail, 12 March, 2014
Similarly , a swine flu pandemic has been reported in New Zealand, prompting both NZ and Australian health authorities to encourage people to have their flu shots early. International Business Times, 27 March, 2014
H1N1 Influenza virus is a relatively new strain of Influenza A virus - first detected in Mexico in April 2009. The H1N1 virus spread rapidly around the world and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in June 2009. H1N1 is referred to as swine flu because it contains some of the same DNA from influenza strains that infect pigs.
The symptoms of swine flu are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu:
- sore throat
- runny nose
- body aches
Some people also have diarrhoea and vomiting.
There are two main ways to protect yourself and your family from influenza:1
- Reducing the likelihood of contact with the virus; and
- Having an annual influenza vaccination.
1. You can reduce the likelihood of spreading the influenza virus by:
- Avoiding contact with people who have the flu
- Protecting yourself and others by washing your hands regularly
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Using disposable tissues once only then placing them in the bin
- Staying at home if you have flu-like symptoms.1
2. Annual influenza vaccinations
Annual flu vaccinations are recommended for any person aged 6 months or over who wants (or whose carer wants) to be protected against influenza - unless there is a medical reason why they should not be vaccinated.1 The greater number of people who are vaccinated against influenza, the less the risk and economic burden on the community.
Who should be vaccinated?
The Australian Immunisation Handbook recommends influenza vaccination:
- Children aged 6 months+ who are at risk of complications
- All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years+
- People with chronic diseases and compromised immune systems
- All older Australians 65+ years
- Pregnant women.