Pregnant women urged to get flu shots before winter hits

PREGNANT women, some Aboriginal age groups and people with asthma or diabetes are urged to have their free flu vaccination as soon as possible.

These groups qualify for a free jab under the Immunise Australia Program because they are at risk of complications.

Last year, 24.2% of pregnant women in New South Wales were vaccinated against the flu and about one-third of people with diabetes, asthma or who were obese were vaccinated.

Aboriginal people aged six months to five years and over 15 years old qualify.

Director of Health Protection NSW, Jeremy McAnulty, said the flu vaccination was very safe for expectant mothers and their babies, and also provided protection in the infant’s early months.

“We urge all expectant mothers to take up this opportunity to protect themselves and their babies,” Dr McAnulty said.

“During the 2009 Australian influenza pandemic, pregnant women were hospitalised at five times the rate of non-pregnant women.

“Children born to vaccinated mothers have a reduced risk of contracting influenza in the first six months of life.”

Pregnant women with influenza have an increased risk of complications, including hospitalisation, intensive care admission, pre-term delivery and, in severe cases, the death of the mother and/or unborn baby.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that pregnant women be vaccinated early in the flu season as optimal protection takes effect four to six weeks after vaccination.

Influenza, or the flu, is a highly contagious illness. The virus is transmitted easily from person-to-person via droplets and small particles produced when infected people cough or sneeze, and through hand contact with contaminated surfaces.

Influenza is characterised by a sudden high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, feeling unwell, and sore throat.

Public health experts estimate that each year up to one in five people in NSW will get seasonal influenza, which equates to around 10 to 20% of the population.

It is expected that up to 800 individuals will die from the flu.



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