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It’s coming back

A new survey has found people are reluctant to be vaccinated against the flu.

New findings released last month by the Influenza Specialist Group have led experts to call upon nurses to challenge what they believe is risky behaviour of people when it comes to preventing transmission of influenza and seeking vaccination.

As the 'flu season' began, the Influenza Specialist Group (ISG) revealed that every third person that come into contact with another on transport, at work or while buying a coffee this season could be the one that passes the influenza virus on to you or someone you know.

A survey of 1120 people conducted by the group revealed that while 82 per cent of respondents recognised that even healthy people would benefit from vaccination, nearly three quarters (72 per cent) were unsure whether they would get the vaccination, almost half (42 per cent) had never had the vaccination and around 5,400,000 adult Australians will definitely not be seeking vaccination this year.

Although people recognise the benefits of vaccination there was some reluctance identified through the survey. While people understand that being vaccinated in the past does not necessarily protect them from future influenza outbreaks (95 per cent) they still do not believe it is important to be vaccinated every year (28 per cent).

The worrying aspect for these people, said the ISG, is that many people were avoiding vaccination and potentially becoming a risk to themselves and those around them because they see vaccination as 'too much hassle' (40 per cent), or unnecessary because they 'never get the flu - so there's no point' (18 per cent).

Professor Bill Rawlinson, virologist and director of the Influenza Specialist Group (ISG), said that although more complications from influenza were seen in people with underlying conditions, such as the elderly, diabetes, and other chronic lung and heart diseases, complications could still occur in otherwise healthy people.

Events in the Northern Hemisphere have provided some idea of the impact this year's flu season can have in Australia.

The latest surveillance data revealed 54,096 cases of influenza reported across Europe so far. While in England and Ireland, at the peak of the influenza season, more than one in every 100,000 people was hospitalised in intensive care units, in a single day.

The H1N1 influenza virus, which is still circulating, has also caused serious illness, hospitalisation and deaths across the Northern Hemisphere in otherwise healthy, younger adults, many of whom did not have underlying risk factors.

"People need to be aware that influenza is not the common cold and that taking preventive measures, along with avoiding transmission to others, is very important. We should be concerned for our own health, as well as for those friends, work colleagues or family members around us; in particular those with underlying conditions who are at increased risk of serious outcomes, such as pregnant women", said Rawlinson.

"The impact of influenza is quite unpredictable. However, it is with us every year and outbreaks in Australia will soon be imminent. The reports of influenza-related hospitalisations and deaths in Europe should act as a sign that precautions should be taken".

The Influenza Specialist Group has launched la new digital video to show Australians how influenza is transmitted across the world. The aim is to demonstrate that while last year's influenza season may have been forgotten, the virus has not gone - it's coming back and preventive measures should be taken.

The video forms part of a new range of online educational resource including; consumer information brochures and posters available in GP surgeries, and a YouTube channel featuring video information on the virus and advice on prevention and treatment.

The Australian Immunisation Handbook also recommends influenza vaccination for any person 6 months of age or over who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza.

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