Flu shots soon available at Guyra Pharmacy, Vu Nguyen says

HEALTH: Guyra pharmacist Vu Nguyen will soon be vaccinating Guyra residents against the flu. Photo: Nicholas Fuller

HEALTH: Guyra pharmacist Vu Nguyen will soon be vaccinating Guyra residents against the flu. Photo: Nicholas Fuller

Doctors are expecting a severe flu season, possibly our worst on record.

The NSW government recommends everyone over six months should be vaccinated - and pharmacist Vu Nguyen expects the shots to be available at the Guyra Pharmacy within a fortnight.

Influenza can cause pneumonia, increased risk of asthma, hospitalisation, and even death.

"Complications from flu happen every year," Mr Nguyen said, "and cost the health system quite a lot. They can be reduced and prevented."

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The elderly and the very young are most at risk; 5800 Australians were hospitalised last year.

19,000 influenza cases have already been reported across the country - more diagnoses than by this point last year - while Victorian numbers of flu patients treble 2018 figures, and South Australia has the most cases in more than a decade.

Guyra had one of its worst flu seasons in 2017, the same year more than 1000 Australians died from influenza A (H3N2). The next year, there was a high rate of people taking up the flu shot - and fewer incidences of the virus.

"Hopefully, we'll continue with the trend," Mr Nguyen said.

The vaccine ($19.95) he offers protects patients from the four strains the Department of Health predicts will cause the most problems.

Photo - Nicholas Fuller

Photo - Nicholas Fuller

The vaccine, Mr Nguyen explained, is not the flu virus itself, but contains an inert part of the virus. Exposing the body to the bug produces antibodies so that, if you encounter the real thing, you already have protection.

The flu shot takes a fortnight to start working, then peaks in three or four months - taking you relatively safely through July and August, the worst of the flu season.

Under the NSW government's expanded program, pharmacists can now vaccinate patients over 16 (brought down from 18).

"It's much easier for people to get vaccinated, and more accessible," Mr Nguyen said. "They don't have to line up at the doctor's surgery."

The NSW government has made the flu vaccine free for those most at risk: pregnant women; all Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders over six months; children between six months and five years old; and anyone over six months with certain medical risks (including cardiac and chronic respiratory conditions). Patients need to see their GP to get the free vaccinations.

People over 65 can also get a free super-booster Fluad vaccine from their doctor to better protect them.

Good hygiene is important to minimise spreading the virus, Mr Nguyen said. Cough into a tissue, wipe, and throw it away. Use anti-bacterial sanitisers and handwashes. If you can, avoid large gatherings that could spread the virus around. Take plenty of rest and fluid, and vitamins to boost the immune season.

"Hopefully that will get you across the flu season!" Mr Nguyen said.