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Get vaccinated against influenza this winter.



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David Hawker MP Federal Member for Wannon Electorate Office: 190 Gray Street, Hamilton, Vic., 3300 Ph: (03) 5572 1100 or Local Call 1300 131 692 Fax: (03) 55 72 1141 Email: David.Hawker.MP@aph.gov.au Web: www.davidhawker.com.au

Media Release The Hon David Hawker MP Speaker of the House of Representatives Federal Member for Wannon

15 May 2006

GET VACCINATED AGAINST INFLUENZA THIS WINTER

Federal Member for Wannon, David Hawker, today joined forces with leading Australian health professionals in urging all Western Victorian residents to take influenza seriously.

“Many people think that influenza is as harmless as the common cold - unfortunately this is not the case,” Mr Hawker said.

“Even completely healthy young people can be severely affected for several days by a bout of influenza, which means missing work commitments, social events and regular responsibilities such as caring for others. For many others, particularly people with underlying medical conditions or those aged 65 or over, the consequences can be even worse.”

In fact, according to the National Institute of Clinical Studies, individuals with underlying conditions have a 40 times increased risk of death from influenza1, and it is estimated that influenza is responsible for 1,500 deaths annually2.

“With winter just around the corner, it is important that everyone who is at risk of serious consequences from influenza protect themselves by getting vaccinated,” Mr Hawker said.

Mr Alan Hampson, Convenor of the Influenza Specialist Group, said that while most Australians aged 65 or over received their annual influenza vaccination, many younger at-risk Australians were missing out.

“Influenza is a serious and contagious disease, but especially so for people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, a weakened immune system or a lung disease such as asthma, emphysema or chronic bronchitis,” said Mr Hampson. “For these people, even if they feel fit and well, influenza can weaken their immune system and compromise their ability to manage their underlying medical condition. This often results in hospitalisation and can even result in death.”

“Vaccination is the most important and effective measure in influenza prevention, but most recent data indicates that only 48.2%3 of younger people in Victoria with underlying conditions are currently getting vaccinated”, Mr Hawker added.

The number of influenza infections typically starts to increase in June and peaks between July and September. However, outbreaks sometimes start earlier and it takes two weeks for full immunity to develop after vaccination. In addition to vaccination, there are also specific antiviral medications available on prescription which can help limit the effect of influenza if they are taken within the first two days of the onset of symptoms.

“With winter looming, now is the perfect time for anyone who doesn’t want to become ill with influenza to speak with their GP about vaccination,” Mr Hawker concluded.

Media contact: Jane Templeton

(03) 5572 1100

References 1. Colgan S, Tay-Teo K, Shih S et al. NICS Evidence Report: Influenza Vaccination for ‘At-Risk’ Australians Aged Between 18-64. February 2006. Found at: www.fightflu.com.au 2. Mills, J. and Yapp, T. An economic evaluation of three CSIRO manufacturing research projects. 1996. Australia, CSIRO 3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2004 influenza vaccine survey: summary results. March 2005: PHE 56