2010 Chief Health Officer Messages

The Chief Health Officer messages below are the ACT Chief Health Officer's official communiques regarding the management of influenza in the ACT.

The community’s vigilance has kept influenza activity relatively low - 28 September, 2010

ACT Health wishes to acknowledge the efforts made by the community to help stop the spread of the influenza (flu) virus. Notifications of flu have remained low both in the ACT, and nationally.

During 2010, at least 71,500 people in the ACT community have been immunised with the H1N1 pandemic vaccine and over 32,000 people have been protected with the seasonal flu vaccine.

Although the season is drawing to a close, cases of flu may still occur well into Spring. Everyone is encouraged to continue to adopt behaviours that limit the spread of the flu virus, paying particular attention to cough etiquette – cough or sneeze into a tissue, dispose of the used tissue directly into a bin and wash hands regularly.

Child care centres, schools and workplaces are common environments where germs spread. In addition to the above measures, these facilities should consider:

  • ensuring people stay away from work, school or other public places when ill;
  • promoting good hygiene measures and providing appropriate facilities to enable this – running water, soap, a means to dry hands and a bin.

In addition to stopping the spread of flu, the warmer weather can be a common time for other infectious conditions, such as whooping cough, gastro and chickenpox. The above measures will also assist in stopping the spread of these conditions.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Charles Guest

Chief Health Officer

Important things to remember during the influenza season - 23 August, 2010

As we remain in the influenza (flu) season it is important to know the symptoms of flu, which include:

  • high temperature and chills;
  • cough and/or sore throat;
  • runny or stuffy nose;
  • head and body aches;
  • vomiting and diarrhoea.

It is important to keep a close watch on people with flu-like illness and seek medical attention immediately if the symptoms are severe. Some people are more at risk of serious complications including those with chronic illness, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.

It is important for everyone to remain vigilant and continue to adopt behaviours that limit the spread of the flu virus, including:

  • Be immunised – the 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine protects against three strains of flu, including H1N1. Alternatively, there are still plentiful supplies of the single strain H1N1 pandemic vaccine;
  • Cough etiquette – cough or sneeze into a tissue, dispose of the used tissue directly into a bin and wash hands regularly;
  • Social distancing - stay at home from work or school if you are unwell with flu symptoms – it will help stop the spread of flu and speed your recovery;
  • Stop smoking – this will help your immune system fight respiratory illness.

Although we are well into the winter season, it is not too late to be vaccinated against the flu. Talk to your healthcare provider today.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Charles Guest

Chief Health Officer

Children aged under 5 years can now be protected against seasonal influenza - 9 August, 2010

In April, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) recommended a ‘pause’ in vaccination with seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine. This ‘pause’ was pending an investigation into the increased number of young children suffering high temperatures following the seasonal flu vaccine leading, on occasion, to febrile convulsions.

Following a thorough nationwide investigation by expert bodies including the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the CMO has released revised recommendations.

All children aged six months and over can now be immunised against seasonal flu with two brands of vaccine, Vaxigrip® and Influvac®. Vaccination of children less than five years with Fluvax® and Fluvax® Junior is not recommended due to the identified increased risk of febrile convulsions.

The reporting of suspected adverse events following immunisation to local and national authorities is encouraged. Reports of adverse events can be made by your healthcare provider or by calling the ACT Health immunisation enquiry line on 6205 2300.

Further information on the investigation and the revised recommendations can be found on the Australian Government’s Website

Although we are well into the winter season, it is not too late to be vaccinated against the flu. Talk to your healthcare provider today.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Charles Guest

Chief Health Officer

Think about Whooping Cough - 26 July, 2010

A respiratory illness that that might be forgotten during the influenza (flu) season is pertussis (whooping cough). Whooping cough is a bacterial infection which can present initially as a flu-like illness but develops into a cough which can persist for several weeks.

In adults, whooping cough rarely produces severe complications but infectious adults can pass the disease on to others. Of most concern are young children under 6 months of age who are more likely to become severely ill and suffer serious complications from infection. To prevent the spread of infection, anyone with a coughing illness should stay home from work or school during the infectious period.

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and the community from whooping cough. Whooping cough vaccination is provided to babies and children as part of the routine childhood vaccination program. The vaccine is also particularly important for those who have regular contact with young children, such as Health Care Workers (particularly in maternity units) and Child Care Workers. Free whooping cough vaccine is available until the end of 2010 in the ACT to parents and grandparents of babies aged less than 12 months of age.

For more information on Whooping Cough, please see your GP or access the ACT Health Pertussis (whooping cough) fact sheet at: www.health.act.gov.au/whoopingcough

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Eddie O'Brien

Acting Chief Health Officer

Reminder to Health Care Workers: Influenza (flu) Immunisation - 12 July, 2010

Protecting yourself

It is important that all Health Care Workers are vaccinated against influenza. Vaccination, along with good infection control practices, will significantly reduce the likelihood of becoming ill from influenza.

Protecting those you care for

People who commonly use healthcare settings, such as young infants, the elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and the very overweight are at increased risk of severe illness from influenza. Health Care Workers have a duty of care to protect the patients/clients they care for.

If you have already had a dose of Panvax®, you should still receive the 2010 seasonal flu vaccine, as it will protect against the three strains of flu most likely to circulate this year, including swine flu.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

John Woollard

Acting Executive Director

Common misconceptions about the Influenza Vaccine - 28 June, 2010

There are a number of common misconceptions or myths about influenza (flu) vaccination. These include:

MYTH: The flu vaccine gives me the flu

Some recent research indicates that about 20% of the population believe this myth. The fact is that the flu vaccine is not a live vaccine and cannot give you the flu virus. Mild flu like symptoms that may occur after immunisation are signs that your body is mounting an immune response which provides protection from the flu virus.

MYTH: I am healthy so I don’t need to be vaccinated

Healthy people may still become quite ill from a flu infection and will often need several days off work or school. Some healthy people, such as pregnant women and young people have been especially affected by swine flu. Getting immunised will also help protect people in the community who are vulnerable, such as the very young and the elderly.

It is important to be vaccinated now as the flu season is upon us and it can take up to two weeks to gain full protection.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

John Woollard, Acting Executive Director

Supplies of Influenza Vaccine for the Private Market - 21 June, 2010

Supplies of seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine are now available on private prescription from community pharmacies for people not eligible for free flu vaccine. While it is important that everyone consider protecting themselves against the flu, it is especially recommended for people who are most at risk of catching the flu virus and passing it onto the more vulnerable members of our community. This includes health care workers, child care workers and those who have contact with young children, including parents.

The 2010 seasonal flu vaccine provides protection against three strains of flu, the pandemic H1N1 strain (swine flu), an H3N2 and a B strain.

The following people are eligible for free flu seasonal vaccine

  • Everyone aged 65 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
  • Pregnant women, and
  • Anyone with an underlying medical condition making them more likely to become very ill with the flu, or suffer severe complications.

Where to get your flu vaccine

People eligible for free vaccine - Direct from your GP or a Community Health immunisation clinic. To make an appointment at a clinic phone the Community Health Intake line on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays). Your GP may charge a consultation fee.

People not eligible for free vaccine - On GP private prescription from your community pharmacy.

Workplace - Some employers provide free seasonal flu vaccine to staff.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Eddie O’Brien

Acting Chief Health Officer

What is Influenza Like Illness? - 15 June, 2010

Various viruses can cause influenza-like-illness (ILI). Common causes of ILI include respiratory viruses and influenza (flu), which tend to be more severe than the common cold. However, many other viruses can cause an illness similar to flu. It is often difficult to say exactly which virus is causing the illness. Therefore, doctors commonly make a diagnosis of a 'flu-like illness'.

ILIs typically cause a high temperature, aches and pains in muscles and joints, a cough, sore throat and generally feeling unwell. In young children, gastrointestinal symptoms are common.

Most people recover fully, but complications such as pneumonia develop in some cases, which can be serious. If you are at increased risk of developing complications, you should be immunised against seasonal flu each year.

Whatever the cause of the ILI, you should stay home and rest. This will speed your recovery and reduce the spread of illness in the community.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Eddie O’Brien

Acting Chief Health Officer

Seasonal Influenza Immunisation for Children less than 5 years of age - 7 June, 2010

Following an investigation into a higher than usual occurrence of fever with convulsions in young children after seasonal influenza immunisation Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, has advised the following:

Healthy children aged less than 5 years

As a precaution the suspension of seasonal influenza vaccine for healthy children aged less than 5 years should continue. Healthy children under 5 years are less at risk of severe illness and hospitalisation from complications of flu. This group is recommended to receive the free H1N1 influenza vaccine Panvax®, which has been found to be safe and effective in preventing swine flu. Swine flu is the predominant circulating flu strain so far this year.

Children aged less than 5 years with underlying medical conditions

Parents of children with medical conditions should discuss the risks and benefits of immunisation with seasonal influenza vaccine with their general practitioner (GP). These children are at risk of severe illness and your GP can advise if immunisation with seasonal influenza vaccine would be the best option.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Charles Guest

Chief Health Officer

Symptoms of Influenza - 31 May, 2010

As the 2010 influenza (flu) season fast approaches, it is important to know the symptoms of flu, which include:

  • high temperature and chills
  • cough and/or sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • head and body aches
  • vomiting and diarrhoea.

It is important to keep a close watch on people with flu like illness and seek medical attention immediately if the symptoms are severe.

Some people are more at risk of serious complications including those with chronic illness, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.

Remember to stay at home from work or school if you are unwell with these symptoms – it will help stop the spread of flu and speed your recovery.

The most effective measure in preventing influenza is vaccination.

If you are in a risk group the seasonal flu vaccine can be obtained from your GP or Community Clinics. To make an appointment at a community clinic, phone the Community Health Intake line on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays). Although the vaccine is free for at risk groups, your GP may charge a consultation fee.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Charles Guest

Chief Health Officer

Reminder to people in 'at risk' groups to be immunised with Seasonal Influenza vaccine now - 24 May, 2010

ACT Health is reminding people in the ‘at risk’ groups to make sure they have been immunised with seasonal influenza vaccine as we approach the flu season. More people are eligible for free vaccine this year under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) including:

  • Everyone aged 65 years and over
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
  • Pregnant women, and
  • Everyone aged 6 months and over* with an underlying medical condition making them more likely to become very ill with the flu, or suffer severe complications.

The 2010 seasonal flu vaccine provides protection against the pandemic H1N1 strain (swine flu), and two additional strains of flu, an H3N2 and a B strain. People who have been immunised against swine flu should still receive seasonal flu vaccine as it provides immunity against other circulating flu strains.

If you are in an ‘at risk’ group the seasonal flu vaccine can be obtained from your GP or Community Clinics. To make an appointment at a community clinic, phone the Community Health Intake line on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays). Although the vaccine is free, your GP may charge a consultation fee.

*program for children less than 6 years of age paused 23/4/10 pending conclusion of investigation into increase of Adverse Events Following Immunisation reported in WA. This pause does not apply to pregnant women.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Charles Guest

Chief Health Officer

The role of basic hygiene in the prevention of influenza (flu) - 17 May, 2010

Hand hygiene is crucial to reducing the spread of flu because washing your hands properly is effective in killing the virus.

Wash your hands regularly:

  • With soap and water, rubbing your wrists, palms, fingers and nails for 15–20 seconds. Rinse and dry with a clean, dry towel or paper towel.
  • If your hands are not visibly soiled, use of an alcohol-based hand rub may be more convenient.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.

If you cough or sneeze:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue rather than your hands
  • Dispose of tissue immediately in the bin and wash your hands.
  • If there are no tissues available, use your upper arm/sleeve rather than your hands.

Some other ways to stop the spread of flu:

  • Stand back from other people in public places or in the workplace. Try to maintain a distance of at least a metre - about a large step.
  • If you are feeling ill with flu symptoms don’t go to work. Stay at home and recover. Do not visit hospitals or aged care facilities. Avoid close contact with others, especially those who might become very ill from the flu.
  • Regularly clean surfaces such as tables, light switches, fridge doors and door handles with household detergent. Flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.
  • Immunise.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

Dr Charles Guest

Chief Health Officer

Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Availability - 10 May, 2010

Seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine supplies into community pharmacies have been slow and will remain low in the coming weeks. If you are trying to purchase this vaccine it is best to leave your prescription with your pharmacist. They will place an order and let you know when it is available. Be patient, but persistent, as the flu season is fast approaching.

Supplies of seasonal flu vaccine for people eligible for free vaccine under the National Immunisation Program have not been affected and are being provided direct to GPs. Eligible groups are those at higher risk of developing severe illness and complications from the flu virus. These currently include pregnant women, people aged 6 years* and over with underlying medical conditions, people aged 65 years and over and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over. If you belong to one of these groups please contact your GP for immunisation against flu. Normal consultation fees will apply.

Ample supplies of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine, Panvax® are also available for everyone aged 6 months and over. This can be obtained through your General Practitioner or community clinics (ph (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays) for an appointment). This will provide coverage for H1N1 which is expected to be the predominant circulating strain this winter.

The 2010 seasonal flu vaccine protects against three strains - pandemic H1N1 ’09 influenza (swine flu) strain, a H3N2 strain and a B strain.

You should still have a seasonal flu shot even if you had the single strain pandemic H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

* - program for children 5 years of age and under paused 23/4/10 pending conclusion of investigation into increase of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) reported in WA.

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Understanding Side Effects from Influenza Vaccination - 03 May, 2010

All vaccines currently available in Australia must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The safety of vaccines continues to be monitored once they are in use, by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Medicines (ACSOM) and other teams of experts.

Vaccines may produce some unwanted side effects, such as pain and redness at the injection site, or fever. Most reactions are mild and resolve quickly.

Recently, there have been reports of the number of young children having high temperatures following the seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine leading, on occasion, to febrile convulsions. Febrile convulsions are quite common in young children when they have a temperature from any cause. Whilst they can be distressing, children generally make a full recovery.

The reporting of suspected adverse events following immunisation to local and national authorities is encouraged. Such reporting led to the pause in the use of the seasonal influenza vaccine for young children.

If you think that you have suffered an adverse reaction following immunisation, please discuss this with your doctor or immunisation provider. Reports of adverse events can be made by your healthcare provider or by calling the ACT Health immunisation enquiry line on 6205 2300.

Reporting these events will not only allow you to receive further advice on your own health, but assists the TGA to continue to assess the ongoing safety of vaccines in use in our community.

Health Care Interpreters phone (02) 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

What can I do to stop the spread of influenza (flu)? - 27 April 2010

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water (or alcohol rub)

Wash hands for at least 15 seconds – the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’

  • Before eating or preparing food.
  • After blowing your nose.
  • After the toilet.

Stay at home from work or school if you have flu symptoms

  • Stay away from work, keep children home from school or childcare, stay away from public gatherings such as parties and sport.
  • If you must go out, to visit the doctor or pick up children from school, keep a distance of at least 1 metre from others.

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough

The virus is spread through the air when you cough, sneeze and talk.

  • Cover your face with a tissue or your sleeve.
  • Dispose of used tissues in a bin immediately.
  • Wash your hands well afterwards.
  • Teach your children to do the same.

Clean surfaces regularly

The flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.

  • Clean surfaces regularly such as benches, taps and doorknobs with detergent and water to kill the virus.

Have a flu shot

  • Immunisation is the best protection against flu.
  • The 2010 seasonal flu vaccine has three strains - pandemic H1N1 influenza (swine flu) strain, a H3N2 strain and a B strain.
  • Seasonal flu vaccine is free for some groups at higher risk of severe complications from the flu – ask your GP if you are eligible.
  • You should still have a seasonal flu shot even if you had the single strain pandemic H1N1(swine flu) vaccine.
  • Not eligible or don’t want to pay for seasonal flu vaccine? The single strain pandemic H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine is still available and free for everyone.
  • Regular GP consultation fees apply even in cases where the vaccine may be free.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333

Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Pregnant women and influenza - 19 April 2010

Pregnant women have a high risk of developing severe complications from influenza which can result in hospitalisation or even death.

Getting immunised with seasonal influenza vaccine not only protects the mother against this disease but can also provide protection for the baby in the first few months of life. Severe influenza illness in a pregnant woman can be stressful to the unborn baby.

Pregnant women are one of the priority groups who are eligible for free seasonal influenza vaccine. Only one dose of the vaccine is required by pregnant women to gain immunity.

Influenza vaccine does not contain any live viruses and cannot cause the disease. The composition of seasonal influenza vaccine changes each year to provide immunity against three circulating influenza virus strains. This is why annual immunisation is required. The vaccine for 2010 provides protection against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain (swine flu) and two other strains which may be circulating.

Influenza vaccine can be safely given at any time during pregnancy. The rate of side-effects from vaccinating pregnant or breastfeeding women is no different from the rate in other people.

To protect yourself against influenza, book an appointment now with your GP.

Health Care Interpreters phone 6205 3333
Translating and Interpreting Service phone 131 450

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Rumours and Myths about the flu vaccine - 12 April 2010

Seasonal influenza vaccine is free for everyone

No. Seasonal influenza vaccine is funded for:
- People aged 65 years and over,
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over,
- Pregnant women, at any stage,
- Everyone aged 6 months and over with an underlying medical condition predisposing them to severe complications, and
- Some workplaces fund staff flu vaccination programs.

Seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over 6 months of age who wants to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with flu. However, it is only funded for those in the above risk groups.

Pandemic H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine, Panvax®, is free for everyone.

Seasonal flu vaccine does not contain H1N1 (swine flu)

Yes it does, seasonal influenza vaccine contains
A (H1N1), A (H3N2) and a B strain.

The H1N1 contained in seasonal flu vaccine is only 1/3 as strong as the pandemic H1N1 (swine flu) Panvax® vaccine

No. Both Panvax® and the 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine contain the same amount of H1N1.

Influenza vaccine can’t be given to women in the first trimester of pregnancy

Influenza vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy. If a pregnant mother is vaccinated it can also provide protection to the newborn baby.

The seasonal flu vaccine contains mercury

No. The seasonal influenza vaccine does not contain mercury or thiomersal.

The most effective measure in preventing influenza is vaccination.

To protect yourself against swine flu, book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays). For seasonal flu vaccine, book an appointment with your GP.

Health Care Interpreters - phone (02) 6205 3333
Translating and Interpreting Service - phone 131 450

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Symptoms of Pandemic H1N1 influenza (swine flu) - 29 March 2010

Pandemic H1N1 influenza (swine flu) was the most common strain of influenza in Australia during 2009 and is expected to return for a second wave this year. Approximately 15 confirmed cases are currently being reported in Australia each week.

The symptoms of swine flu and seasonal influenza include high temperature; cough; runny or stuffy nose; sore throat, body aches; head ache; chills; tiredness. Some people who have had swine flu have also reported vomiting and diarrhoea.

It is important to keep a close watch on people with influenza and seek medical attention immediately if you or your family member experience severe flu symptoms.

People with existing chronic medical conditions such as, respiratory disease, diabetes, obesity, weakened immune systems or pregnant women, are at increased risk of serious health complications from influenza.

The most effective measure in preventing influenza is vaccination.

To protect yourself against swine flu, book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays). For seasonal flu vaccine book an appointment with your GP.

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Preventing the spread of influenza - 22 March 2010

Here are six simple steps to prevent the spread of influenza:

Get vaccinated this is the best protection against influenza

  • Annual vaccination with seasonal influenza vaccine provides protection against three strains of influenza. The 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine includes the pandemic H1N1 influenza (swine flu) strain, the H3N2 strain and a B strain.
  • The single strain pandemic H1N1 influenza (swine flu) vaccine remains available via GPs and Community Immunisation clinics and is free for everyone. Normal GP consultation fees will apply.

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough - the flu virus travels through the air after a cough or sneeze.

  • Turn away from other people
  • Cover with a tissue or your sleeve
  • Dispose of used tissues immediately
  • Wash your hands or use an alcohol hand rub afterwards.

Wash your hands regularly - hand washing is effective in killing the flu virus

  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; or use an alcohol hand rub.

Don't share personal items or eating or drinking utensils.

Clean surfaces regularly - flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.

Avoid close contact with others. If you are unwell with flu:

  • Stay at home and recover. Don't go to work or school, visit hospitals or aged care facilities, or attend public or crowded gatherings.
  • Stand or sit back at least one metre from other people. This will help reduce the chances of spreading the flu virus.

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Seasonal flu vaccine now free to more people - 15 March 2010

From January 2010 more people are eligible to receive free seasonal influenza vaccine.

People in the following groups are now eligible for free annual influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program:

  • Anyone aged 65 years and over;
  • All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over;
  • All pregnant women; and
  • Anyone aged 6 months and over with medical conditions predisposing them to severe influenza, such as heart disease, chronic lung conditions, chronic illnesses and impaired immunity.

The vaccine for the Australian 2010 influenza season has three strains - the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 strain, an H3N2 strain and a B strain.

People who have had Panvax H1N1 influenza vaccine can still have seasonal influenza vaccine. People listed in the above group should not delay seasonal influenza vaccination because of recent vaccination with Panvax H1N1 vaccine.

People who are not eligible for free seasonal influenza vaccine should still consider vaccination against influenza, particularly health care workers, child care workers and parents of children less than six months of age. The vaccine will be available from GPs on prescription. Influenza vaccine supplies for the private market are expected to be in pharmacies from mid April.

Some workplaces provide free influenza vaccination to their staff so it is worth checking if your workplace has a staff influenza vaccination program.

Influenza vaccine for those eligible for free vaccine under the National Immunisation Program has been distributed to GP practices but check with your GP to ensure they have stock on hand before your appointment.

If you feel you may be eligible for the free seasonal influenza vaccine talk to your GP or contact the Health Protection Service on 6205 2300.

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Pandemic H1N1 and Seasonal Influenza Vaccines - 9 March 2010

Pandemic H1N1 influenza was the most common strain of influenza in Australia during 2009 and is expected to return for a second wave this year. The first case of confirmed pandemic H1N1 influenza for 2010 has already been reported in the ACT and approximately 15 confirmed cases are currently being reported in Australia each week.

Immunisation against pandemic H1N1 influenza is strongly recommended.

The pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine is free and currently available from H1N1 Community Immunisation clinics and GPs. Normal GP consultation fees will apply.

The 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine will also protect against pandemic H1N1 influenza and two other strains of influenza: an A (H3N2) strain and a B strain.

In 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine will be free for:

  • anyone aged 6 months or over who is at risk of severe outcomes if they catch the flu, such as people suffering from cardiac disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes or renal failure;
  • pregnant women;
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 or older; and
  • all Australians 65 years and over.

People eligible for free seasonal flu vaccine should also have the seasonal vaccine to ensure protection against all the influenza strains that may circulate this winter. It is safe to have both pandemic H1N1 vaccine and seasonal influenza vaccine within a short time period.

Distribution of 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine to GPs for people eligible for free vaccine is underway and all GP practices will have supplies by the end of March. Supplies of 2010 seasonal influenza vaccine for private prescription are expected to be available from pharmacies in April.

To protect yourself against pandemic H1N1 influenza, book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays). For seasonal flu vaccine, check with your GP to ensure they have stock on hand before your appointment.

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Seasonal influenza vaccination - 22 February 2010

From 2010, more people in Australia will be eligible to receive free seasonal influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program.

Seasonal influenza vaccine will be free for the following people:

  • anyone aged 6 months or over who is at risk of severe outcomes if they catch the flu, such as people suffering from cardiac disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes or renal failure;
  • pregnant women;
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 or older; and
  • all Australians 65 years and over.

People in these groups have a higher risk of developing severe complications from influenza, which can result in hospitalisation or even death.

Seasonal influenza vaccine provides protection against three influenza vaccine strains: These are the pandemic H1N1 vaccine strain and two other influenza virus strains that are currently circulating in the community. People who have been immunised with H1N1 vaccine should still have the seasonal influenza vaccine in order to get protection against all three strains of the influenza virus.

Seasonal influenza vaccine is expected to be available from March 2010, with most stock expected to arrive during April and May. The vaccine for those in the above funded groups is delivered direct to General Practitioners (GP) so anyone in the above groups should talk to their GP or child health nurse about vaccination with seasonal influenza vaccine.

Pandemic H1N1 vaccine is free for everyone and is still available. Pandemic H1N1 influenza remains a threat so anyone who has not yet had the vaccine is encouraged to get vaccinated to protect both themselves and those who are vulnerable in the community.

To protect yourself against pandemic H1N1 influenza, book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays). For seasonal influenza vaccine, check with your GP to ensure they have stock on hand before your appointment.

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Preventing the spread of influenza - 8 February 2010

Here are six simple steps to prevent the spread of influenza:

1. Get vaccinated this is the best protection against influenza.

  • Vaccination with H1N1 influenza vaccine will provide protection against pandemic H1N1 influenza. H1N1 vaccine is available now.
  • Annual vaccination with seasonal influenza vaccine will provide protection against three strains of influenza viruses currently circulating (the 2010 vaccine will include the H1N1 pandemic strain).

2. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough - the flu virus travels through the air when a person coughs or sneezes. When you cough or sneeze:

  • Turn away from other people;
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve;
  • Use disposable tissues instead of a handkerchief (which could store the virus for up to 12 hours);
  • Put used tissues into the nearest bin immediately; and
  • Wash your hands, or use an alcohol hand rub, as soon as possible afterwards.

3. Wash your hands regular hand washing, even when they aren't visibly dirty, is effective in killing the flu virus.

  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; or use hand sanitizer.

4. Don't share personal items.

  • Keep personal items, such as towels, bedding and toothbrushes separate.
  • Don't share eating and drinking utensils, food or drinks.

5. Clean surfaces - flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.

  • Regularly clean surfaces such as tables, light switches, fridge doors and door handles with normal household detergent.

6. Avoid close contact with others if you are unwell with flu.

  • Stay at home and recover. Don't go to work or school, visit hospitals or aged care facilities, or attend public or crowded gatherings. Avoid taking public transport if you are unwell.
  • Avoid close contact with others, especially those who might easily get the flu such as: people with chronic medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, babies, young children, and the elderly.
  • Stand or sit back at least one metre from other people. This will help reduce the chances of spreading the flu virus.
  • Wear a facemask when seeking medical attention or when in close company of vulnerable people.

To get vaccinated with H1N1 influenza vaccine book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays).

Symptoms of H1N1 influenza - 06 February, 2010

The symptoms of H1N1 influenza are similar to the symptoms of seasonal influenza – high temperature, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and tiredness. Some people also report vomiting and diarrhoea.

Keep a close watch on people with influenza. Seek medical attention immediately if you, or a person you are caring for, experiences severe flu-like symptoms, which include:

· shortness of breath, rapid or difficulty breathing, or chest pains;
· bluish or grey skin colour;
· sudden dizziness, confusion or disorientation;
· severe or persistent vomiting and
· rapid deterioration.

In children, watch out for additional signs of illness. See your healthcare provider immediately if your child:

· is much sicker than usual;
· seems to be getting worse or becomes drowsy;
· has fast or laboured breathing;
· has a fever that is not getting better; or
· is not drinking enough fluids.

People with existing chronic medical conditions (such as respiratory disease, diabetes, obesity, weakened immune systems) and pregnant women are at increased risk of serious health complications from H1N1 influenza. People with these conditions should consult their healthcare provider if they develop flu-like symptoms.

The most effective measure in preventing H1N1 influenza is vaccination.

To protect yourself against H1N1 influenza, book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays).

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Back to school vaccination - 25 January, 2010

With children returning to school, parents are urged to vaccinate them against a resurgence of H1N1 influenza.

As with all flu viruses, H1N1 influenza spreads easily from person to person and when it gets into a school or child care centre it can quickly spread to children and their families. Parents need to get themselves and their children vaccinated.

During the pandemic in Australia last year the highest rates of hospital admissions was in children aged 0 to 4 years and intensive care admissions were highest in babies less than one year old. Almost 75% of children less than 10 who were hospitalised with pandemic influenza had no underlying medical conditions.

The H1N1 influenza vaccine can’t be given to babies less than six months of age. To protect these vulnerable children, parents are urged to have the vaccine.

Children aged 6 months to 9 years require two doses of the Panvax® H1N1 influenza vaccination given at least four weeks apart.

People aged 10 years and over require a single dose of Panvax®.

Once vaccination is completed you will have protection against H1N1 influenza for at least a year.

The H1N1 influenza vaccine is free. To protect yourself against H1N1 influenza, book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays).

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.

Pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccination and protection for groups at high risk of severe complications - 19 January, 2010

Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza remains a threat and all Australians are encouraged to get vaccinated to protect both themselves and those who are vulnerable in the community. There is clear evidence of serious or fatal health complications for some people who catch this flu. As with all flu viruses, H1N1 influenza spreads easily from person to person. By getting vaccinated you not only protect yourself but can help stop this flu spreading.

In the northern hemisphere pandemic influenza arrived in autumn, earlier than seasonal influenza and it has caused thousands of hospitalisations as well as some deaths.

All people can receive the free vaccination but some people are at higher risk of suffering serious complications from H1N1. Vaccination is strongly recommended for:

- Pregnant women
- People with underlying chronic conditions, including:

  • heart disease;
  • asthma and other lung diseases;
  • cancer;
  • diabetes;
  • kidney disease;
  • neurological disease;
  • other chronic conditions (talk to your GP)
  • People who are severely obese
  • Indigenous Australians

To prevent the spread of this virus to people at higher risk of complications it is recommended that people in the following groups be vaccinated,

  • Parents and guardians of infants up to six months old
  • Health care workers and
  • Community care workers

To protect yourself against H1N1 influenza, book an appointment now with your GP or call the Community Health Intake Line during business hours on (02) 6207 9977 between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays (excluding public holidays).

ACT Chief Health Officer,
Dr Charles Guest.