Influenza, commonly shortened to "flu," is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.
Flu comes on much more quickly than a cold, has more severe and debilitating symptoms including muscular aches and pains, and can last much longer.
There is a vaccine available for the flu, which is recommended for certain groups of people. It does not always prevent flu from developing, but it significantly reduces the risk of complications.
Because of the flu's potential to complicate serious illnesses, The Department of Human Services recommends the following groups should receive a flu vaccine each year:1
Those over the age of 65
Adults and children with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, or diabetes
People on immunosuppressive treatments (including long term steroids)
- Residents in nursing homes and aged care facilities
The flu vaccine is usually available between March and May each year and is free
for the above groups. For more information contact your doctor or local community health centre.
It is a matter of preference for healthy adults to have the vaccine, however it is
not generally necessary and many prefer to explore natural ways to help prevent
1. Department of Human Services