Why are some people at increased risk of severe illness from 'flu this winter?

Every year we see certain groups who are more likely to be impacted by 'flu than others. It is particularly important for people at increased risk of severe illness from influenza to be vaccinated against influenza and to seek medical attention early if they develop symptoms.

What are the symptoms of 'flu?

Symptoms usually occur one to three days after infection, and may include sudden onset of fever, chills, cough, sore throat, tiredness, muscle aches, and some people have also complained of vomiting and diarrhoea. Influenza can result in breathing difficulty and pnuemonia.

For further general information on influenza, please see the influenza fact sheet.

How can I protect myself against 'flu?

The 2016 seasonal influenza vaccine is now available for anyone aged 6 months and older. While it is especially important for people at increased risk of severe illness from influenza, anyone who wants to be protected from influenza can be vaccinated.

Who is at increased risk of severe illness?

People considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza include:

  • Those with chronic respiratory conditions
  • Pregnant women (especially 2nd and 3rd trimester)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • People aged 65 years or older
  • People with certain other chronic medical conditions such as:
    • Cardiac disease (excluding simple hypertension)
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Chronic metabolic disease
    • Chronic renal or liver disease
    • Haemoglobinopathies
    • Immunosuppression (including cancers, HIV/AIDS, immunosuppressive drugs)
    • Chronic neurological conditions.

It is a good idea for all members of your household to get vaccinated against influenza as this will lessen the risk that they could give it to you.

What should I do if I develop symptoms and I am at increased risk of severe illness?

Immediately contact your doctor and follow their instructions. Your doctor will determine if treatment is needed. GPs prescribe the anti-influenza medications oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®) (medicines used to treat the flu).

It is important to do this as soon as possible after you develop symptoms, as the medication that may be prescribed for you is more effective the earlier it is commenced.

You should stay home from work or school and limit contact with others until you are well again.

If you are very sick, call 000 for an ambulance or go to a hospital emergency department.

What should I do if I am at increased risk of severe illness and someone in my household has the flu?

Wherever possible, keep away from the person who is sick, including sleeping in a separate room. Encourage the person who is sick to practice good cough and sneeze etiquette. Practice good hand hygiene.

For more information, please see our fact sheets:

Monitor yourself for symptoms of influenza. If you develop any symptoms, contact your doctor urgently as you may need early treatment with anti-influenza medications.

Can I take anti-influenza medication if I have an existing health condition?

Yes, it is generally safe for you to take oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (Relenza®). However, you should discuss any conditions you have with your doctor, including if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What about my usual medications?

You should continue to take your other medications as prescribed. Your doctor will advise you if your medications need to change.

Page Updated: Thursday 12 May 2016
Contact page owner: Communicable Diseases