What is the flu?

Flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can affect the nose, throat, and lungs. It causes mild to severe illness, and can sometimes lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting the annual flu vaccine. Yearly influenza vaccination is recommended for people aged 6 months and over. Certain groups of people who are more at risk of complications from influenza are eligible for annual influenza vaccination free under the National Immunisation Program.


Flu symptoms

Flu is different from a common cold, it usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu may have the following symptoms:

  • fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.


How does flu spread?

Flu virus spreads mainly by tiny droplets made by people with flu coughing, sneezing, or talking. These droplets can land in the airways of people who are nearby. A person might also contract flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.


People at High Risk from flu

Anyone of any age can get the flu (even healthy people), but some people are at a higher risk of developing serious complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.

The annual influenza vaccination is free under the National Immunisation Program for:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
  • Children aged 6 months to under 5 years
  • Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • People aged 65 years or over.
  • People aged 6 months or over who have medical conditions that mean they have a higher risk of getting serious disease:
    • cardiac disease
    • chronic respiratory conditions
    • chronic neurological conditions
    • immunocompromising conditions
    • diabetes and other metabolic disorders
    • renal disease
    • haematological disorders
    • children aged six months to 10 years on long term aspirin therapy.


When should I get vaccinated against flu?

It is recommended to receive a flu vaccine from April onwards to be protected for the peak flu season, which is June to September. The highest level of protection occurs in the first 3 to 4 months following vaccination.

However, it is never too late to vaccinate since influenza can circulate in the community all year round.


Where to get vaccinated

You can get your vaccine from a range of vaccination providers. Find out where and more about your vaccination visit at getting vaccinated.