RESIDENTS are being urged to take advantage of a free flu vaccine available under the National Immunisation Program.
People eligible for the free flu shot include pregnant women, people older than 65, Aborigines older than 15 and those with an underlying medical condition.
Children aged from six months to under five are also eligible for a free vaccine.
Health Department communicable disease control director Paul Armstrong said vaccination was the best protection against the disease.
“Flu can be a very serious illness and is easily spread from person to person through coughing or on the hands,” Dr Armstrong said.
“Yearly immunisation is the safest and most effective way to minimise your risk of getting the flu and passing it on to family, friends and colleagues.”
The Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists both recommend influenza vaccination for pregnant women.
“When given to pregnant women, the vaccine also provides immunity for newborns during the first six months of life, before they are able to be vaccinated,” Dr Armstrong said.
In 2010, one brand of flu vaccine was associated with high fevers and convulsions in young children.
Dr Armstrong said that brand of vaccine was no longer used on children to ensure safety.
“The other brands used last year were safe for young children with nearly 10,000 doses of the influenza vaccine administered to children aged under five in WA in 2011,” he said.
“The Department of Health monitored the situation very closely and no safety issues were identified.”
It is normally a more severe illness than other winter coughs and colds. People experiencing these symptoms should see their GP.
For those most at risk, the flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, hospitalisation or, in severe cases, death.