WHY SHOULD I HAVE A FLU SHOT FOR MY TRIP OVERSEAS??
Dr Michael Long TMA Narre Warren
Huh?! I don’t need a flu shot for going to Thailand, Europe or the US do I? Isn’t the flu just a cold or the “man flu” or something the oldies get?
WRONG WRONG WRONG! Keep reading fellow travellers for more info
What is the flu?
The “flu” is influenza. Not just a cough or sniffle, not your average illness, but 5-7 days of holiday spoiling or business travel interrupting misery with high fevers for most of this time, shivers and sweats, coughing, headaches and aches and pains. Enough to keep you in bed for at least a few days and interrupt your travel plans. And even worse it can sometimes lead to pneumonia, or heart and liver complications leading to death. Not such a mild illness after all! Last year just in Australia there were 90,000 confirmed cases with many more being unreported; it is estimated 18,000 Australians are hospitalised each year with their influenza, with 2500-3000 of these people dying from influenza and its complications.
But why when I travel?
Influenza vaccination isn’t emphasised enough to most travellers, but have a think about it for a minute. Do you remember that guy behind you in the plane coughing all night and keeping you awake? And what about the thousands of people you mingle with at airports or train stations or at clubs or tourist attractions? Some of them must be sick. Influenza is highly contagious and all people travelling should consider having the vaccine, especially if you will be traveling on a cruise,or by bus or train.
In Australia influenza season is May to October with this being reversed in Europe and North America (ie November to March) but get this-IN THE TROPICS IT IS SPREAD ALL YEAR ROUND!) So your hot and humid holiday in Cambodia or Vietnam doesn’t mean you can’t get influenza!
Travel Doctors probably prevent more disease in travellers giving a simple influenza vaccine than with any other vaccine we administer because influenza is so common.
Is there anything new about Influenza vaccines?
Previously the influenza vaccine covered 3 of the different strains of influenza but this year new improved vaccines are available that cover 4 strains of influenza*. These “quadrivalent” vaccines will give you more protection, and should be available at your TMA clinic in April 2016.
The vaccine is given as an annual vaccine; the strains of influenza causing disease change from year to year; there is a global influenza monitoring network which monitors which strains are circulating at any given time, and this information is used to change the strains covered in the vaccine each year.
Does it cost much?
NO! The influenza vaccine will be the cheapest of your travel vaccines.
Should anyone else be getting it?
The Australian Government provides vaccines free of charge if you are 65 or older, or have conditions that increase your risk of the complications of influenza, including those people with emphysema, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neurological conditions like MS or if you take medications that suppress your immune system. It is now recognised that pregnancy increases your risk of getting more severe influenza, and that the vaccine is safe to have at any stage of pregnancy.
Children down to the age of 6 months can have the vaccine but require 2 doses a month apart the first year they have the vaccine ( this applies to children under 9).
So don’t forget to ask your TMA doctor for this year’s Influenza vaccine!
– For the technically minded the 4 strains protected against are 2 Type A’s (California and Hong Kong) and 2 Type B’s (Phuket and Brisbane)
Dr Michael Long from the Fountain Gate Medical Centre
TMA Narre Warren