Annual Campaign Launch 2014
Be FluSmart! Regardless of age or health, no one is flu-‐proof
The Influenza Specailist Group (ISG), Australia’s leading influenza medical expert body, estimates that a quarter or more of the Australian population, could face an increased risk of severe complication when contracting influenza this season. Many of the people at risk, because of an underlying medical condition, are in the younger age groups and consider themselves flu-‐proof. ISG data shows that only 30-‐40 per cent of people in this high risk category are being immunised.
The virus responsible for the 2009 pandemic has been responsible again for widespread outbreaks in Canada and the USA this year. And younger adults have been hit hardest. About 60 per cent of those who have died from influenza in the US this season were 24 to 64 years old, compared with 18 per cent last season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention3. This season's dominant flu strain in the US was the H1N1 virus, the same one that struck in 2009, with high rates of hospitalisation and death among young adults and the middle aged.
Dr Hampson, Chairman of the ISG points out that while influenza was often most severe in the elderly and very young, the ages most affected varied depending the circulating viruses. “The H1N1 pandemic virus has consistently had its greatest impact in the younger adult group, which is a concern because a recent ISG survey had again shown that people under 65 years, with various underlying medical conditions, are still not being vaccinated and are not aware of the risks they face.”
Those at greater risk of complications include: people with heart conditions, asthma and respiratory conditions, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, impaired immunity and neuromuscular disorders, or those who smoke, are obese, pregnant, aged over 65, or of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.
People tend to think of the flu as an illness that afflicts the elderly. In fact, 31 per cent of people under 65 who belong to one or more of the at-‐risk categories are not aware they could develop severe complications if they contract the flu.
In addition, those who consider themselves young and healthy are not immune either. This past flu season in the United States has hit hardest on young and middle-‐aged adults, with the majority of influenza-‐associated hospitalisations (61.6 per cent) occurring in those 18 to 64 years old3. Historically, what occurs in the northern hemisphere winter may reflect the coming influenza activity in Australia, so it’s a timely reminder that even the young and healthy should get flu shots.
As the ISG launches its FluSmart campaign today, it urges all Australians to consider vaccination for influenza in the lead up to winter, and that vaccination is imperitive for those in the high risk categories most of whom are eligible for free vaccine.
It is important for people to be immunised annually as the vaccine usually gets updated each year because influenza viruses change, and this is the case for the 2014 vaccine. In addition, during the course of a year, a person’s immunity reduces by 50 per cent or more, so regardless of the changes it’s important to keep boosting your immunity. The predominant virus in the US this past flu season was H1N1, the same virus that was responsible for the global influenza pandemic in 2009 and this virus, along with two others is in the 2004 vaccine.
Each year, influenza causes more than 18,000 hospitalisations and costs the Australian healthcare system $85 million. More alarmingly, influenza is responsible for around 1,500 deaths, similar to Australia’s annual road death toll.
For more info about the flu, the vaccine and how to protect yourself visit: www.flusmart.org.au
For an interview with a medical expert in your state, or with Dr Hampson, please call: Diane Falzon (Falzon PR) Tel: 043-‐059-‐6699 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Susanne Sperber (ISG) Tel: 03 9863 8651 or email: email@example.com
Press Releases 2014