Our Say: If you are at risk of flu, then have the jab

It may seem a little bit pre-emptive to be talking about flu warnings when the weather is so hot and the season seems far away.

But, it can never be too early when simple prevention is the key and another step in education may be the best way to get there. 

What is concerning health experts in 2018 is the legacy of last year’s atrocious flu season and the need to avoid the difficulties and in many cases the tragedies of 2017 through vaccines. 

The message again is specifically targeted at high risk groups particularly the elderly and young. To speak of tragedy is not an understatement when you comprehend the numbers, as at least 3000 Australians aged over 50 years alone will die each year.

Between 2005-2014, influenza took more children’s lives than any other vaccine-preventable disease and is the most common vaccine-preventable disease that sends Australian children to hospital.

Influenza affects people of all ages and is too often overlooked as some kind of more severe cold.

But the reality is infections among the elderly are more likely to require hospitalisation or cause serious complications, such as pneumonia and heart attacks.

Some 90 per cent of the fatal cases last year were aged 65 and over.

A new study has highlighted yet another at risk group with the overweight and obese far more likely to end up in hospital when they are hit by the flu.

The study found statistically the obese appear to be just as vulnerable to the seasonal flu as those with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For every five-unit BMI increase above 22.5 there was a 15 per cent increase in risk of having a diagnosis of influenza and a 42 per cent increase in hospitalisation.

The risk in those who are severely obese almost doubles compared to someone of healthy weight. The report’s authors also confirm the belief that carrying excess weight impairs the immune system's response to influenza infection.

Report author Associate Professor Bette Liu believes the findings should be another loud signal for all at risk groups to make serious preparations.

The cold weather may not be here yet but this preventative step should make the many people in Orana in these categories consider the often free vaccine options.

Vaccinations may not cover all flu strains, but they are a good start for high risk groups to increase the odds in their defence.