Getting to know the flu

23 July 2019
By Stephen Wiblin, Head of Clinical Strategy & Development


Getting to know the flu

Australia is facing an influenza epidemic, with a record number of cases already being recorded for most states, and flu experts predicting the death toll will reach 4,000 this year.

While influenza is highly contagious, it is a preventable illness. Given the influenza season is upon us, and the elderly are much more susceptible to it, it is a timely reminder for all of us to be mindful of germs and to brush up on how best to safeguard yourself and your loved ones against it.

There are a lot of misconceptions around influenza, or as it’s more commonly known, ‘the flu’ – so first up let’s get back to basics.

What is the flu?

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness which is caused by influenza viruses, of which there are two main types: A and B. There are many sub strains of flu, which is why immunisation, while effective, does not mean the recipient is 100 per cent protected from immunisation alone.

Some common symptoms of the flu include; fever and chills; cough, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose; muscle aches, joint pains, headaches and fatigue; nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people recover after a few days, however some symptoms may last more than a week and for vulnerable people it can be fatal.

While anyone can get the flu, people aged 65 years and older, along with children under five and pregnant women have a higher risk of complications from influenza infection, therefore it is imperative that anyone entering an Allity home takes the necessary precautions to keep our residents safe and healthy this flu season.

Allity protocol

At Allity all suspected cases of the flu are taken very seriously.

Our homes have strict protocols in place to contain any outbreaks. These are both preventative and responsive to infection. Each home has the following measures in place:

  1. Annual vaccines are available to all staff and residents.
  2. All family and friends entering a home are encouraged to get an annual flu shot.
  3. Staff work with doctors, nurses and the Department of Health to monitor residents suspected of infection and then test for infection as early as possible, before there is a high risk of spreading the virus.
  4. All residents and staff with suspected, or confirmed cases of the flu are secluded from other residents or sent home, respectively.
  5. If infection is confirmed, we immediately isolate and treat the infection and, depending on the extent of the outbreak, may consider restricting entry to the home. Residents and staff are only allowed to resume their regular activities when:
    a. at least five days have passed since the illness as began, AND
    b. the fever has resolved and has not been present for 24 hours, AND
    c. coughing has improved.
  6. Residents are continuously monitored and, if needed, transferred to the local hospital for further treatment.
  7. All confirmed cases of the flu are reported to the Department of Health and all families and friends of the home are informed of the home’s restricted entry policy, meaning visitors, particularly young children and people with compromised immune systems, are, for their safety, restricted from visiting until further notice.

Five ways to prevent the flu

Outbreaks of the flu affect many residential care facilities across the country every year. There are measures you can take before entering an aged care home to ensure you and your loved ones are kept as safe as possible this flu season.

1. Get a flu shot, and encourage your loved ones to do also

The annual influenza vaccine is available each year for anyone aged six months and over and it is most effective if done before winter arrives. Immunisations can be done at doctors’ clinics and various pharmacies and many people are eligible for free vaccines under the National Influenza Vaccination Program, to check your eligibility, click here.

2. Sneeze into your elbow

The NSW Department of Health recommends people with the flu to sneeze into their elbow, cover their face with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and make sure all dirty tissues are thrown in the rubbish.

3. Clean your hands

Washing your hands thoroughly and often is an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Department of Health guidelines advise washing hands for at least 10 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing and nose blowing. All Allity homes have mobile alcohol-based hand rub stations throughout and we encourage all residents, staff and visitors to use these.

4. Stay home if you’re sick

If you are unwell with the flu, or suspect you may have the flu, keep yourself at home and avoid close contact with other people, especially people more likely to get severely sick with the flu, which includes the elderly. Wait for at least 24 hours after the fever resolves to ensure it is unlikely the virus will spread.  

Related articles

Health NSW: Influenza factsheet

Health NSW: Residential care facilities and influenza


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