Adelaide University experts answer questions on this year's devastating flu season

Adelaide University experts answer questions on this year's devastating flu season

A killer flu song claimed 101 South Australians to date this year, and 23,242 cases were reported in the state compared to 1970 at the same time in 2018.

And while the deadly flu season may be easing, many people are trying to find out how they can protect themselves and their families in the future.

The flu was too long during the summer despite the season usually starting in June and a highlight in August.

Adelaide's team of experts came together to tackle the common issues of influenza, including misconceptions about vaccination and the disease.

He is leading a public forum in the Braggs lecture theater at Adelaide University North Tce campus on Tuesday at 6pm, hosted by the Irish Infectious Disease Research Center.

The flu was too long during the summer despite the season usually starting in June and a highlight in August.
Camera iconThe flu was too long during the summer despite the season usually starting in June and a highlight in August.Picture: Suppliers

How do you know if you have flu or bad flu?

If you have a sudden fever, headache, chills and fatigue or weakness, you may get flu, which causes a flu virus.

Unlike cold, flu is very debilitating, which is likely to remain in bed for several days.

If runny nose, sore throat and moderate discomfort are moderate, you probably have the common cold, creating rhinovirus. Sometimes this is called human flu! (This is a sentence referring to the more severe symptoms reported by men when they have a common cold).

If I get the flu what should I do?

You should talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

If you can go to the doctor within two days of the symptoms coming in they can prescribe Tamiflu antivirus that may reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of the disease.

How can one try to spread the disease to others?

Steps that can be taken include: t

■ Limitation of contact with other family members for 24 hours after fever.

■ Cover your nose and mouth when you stretch and dispose of tissues correctly.

■ Wash your hands, clean and disinfect all surfaces.

Can you get flu if you get vaccinated?

Associate Professor Michael Beard says that virus is not live in the vaccine but viral proteins have been purified.

This means that you cannot get flu as a result of vaccination.

After the vaccination, your immune response will answer the viral proteins, which makes you feel tired sometimes.

Is it worth getting the flu vaccine?

Flu vaccine is the most effective strategy to protect flu, says Professor James Paton. Those most at risk of influenza are young, old, pregnant and those with underlying lung problems or immune change systems.

However, influenza can be healthy throughout all ages and, therefore, it is important that families receive vaccination.

Why do we need vaccination every year?

Dr Mohammed Alsharifi says that current vaccines aim to train our immune system to identify the surface molecules of influenza viruses.

The virus, leading to changes in the shape of surface molecules, dies. Therefore, we have to be vaccinated every year to retrain our immune system.

Each year, the vaccine is re-formulated to cater for suspected virus strains. Last year's vaccine cannot protect you from the current strains.

Why do people die from flu and when others come back?

Associate Professor Beard says that our immune system is important for combating infections and, in most cases, our immune response to the flu virus is enough to recover it.

However, in some people, the response is not well controlled and it can damage your tissue and organs, which may be fatal.

Heavy influenza virus infections involve a major reaction by the immune system, meaning “cytokine storm”.

It is often overly similar to the immune system rather than the direct effects of the virus itself that cause symptoms such as fever and sometimes death from multiple organ failure.

And Professor Paton says that influenza infection also increases the tendency for secondary infection from bacteria such as pneumococcus, which already have low numbers in the upper respiratory tract.

A virus and bacteria come together to produce a disease that is much more severe than infection alone. Vaccination against flu can prevent this synergy and associated mortality.

Vaccination against pneumococcus can also reduce mortality from these secondary infections.

Why won't my doctor prescribe antibiotics for flu?

Dr Morgyn Warner, head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, says that antibiotics control bacterial infections and that flu is caused by a virus, so antibiotics are ineffective.

Currently there is no effective treatment for influenza-intensive infections, although Tamiflu antivirus treatment may be useful if diagnosed in the early stages.

Normal antibiotics are usually prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection is introduced.

How can I protect myself from flu?

Dr Morgyn Warner says to consult your doctor as soon as possible and keep up with annual vaccines, especially if you are most at risk (ie if you have a weakened immune system or a basic lung disease such as asthma).

Also, stay away from sick people and wash your hands often.

Why was this very bad this year?

There are two types of influenza virus (A and B) that circulate among people and cause flu infection.

In particular, influenza A (H3N2) virus is caused by a much more severe infection compared to influenza A (H1N1) viruses and influenza B.

This year, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses were more frequently detected.

In addition, H3N2 virus appears to be fatal and, therefore, there appears to be an effect on the effectiveness of the 2019 flu vaccine against H3N2 virus.

Therefore, although the current flu vaccines are effective in preventing influenza infections that match the composition of vaccines, it says that a better vaccine is needed that can provide universal protection, says Dr Alsharifi.

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