Stronger flu shot to be rolled out in 2016 to arrest increasing spread of virus

A new influenza vaccine that protects against four different strains of the virus will be released next year, after a record number of reported cases this year.

This year's flu shot protected Australians from three different strains, but the Federal Government has expanded its effectiveness to include the Brisbane and Phuket strains of influenza for 2016.

"There were 90,000 reported flu cases in 2015, that's 25,000 higher than the previous record, so we know that more people are getting the flu," Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said.

"It could also be that people are coming forward for treatment, so there's no absolute definitive answer on how many more are contracting it except to say that many, many more seem to be getting the flu every year, making it even more important that we produce the best possible flu vaccine."

Ms Ley said the Government works closely with vaccine producers to ensure their product meets the constantly-changing protection needs.

What to do if you have the flu:

See your GP once you start feeling ill or call 13 Health (13 43 25 84) if you are concerned about your symptoms
Stay at home - do not go to work or school
Avoid visiting aged care facilities and hospitals, so as not to pass the infection to others who may be at risk of complications
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or try a disinfectant wipe or sanitiser gel
Always cough and sneeze into a tissue, and dispose of tissues quickly
Keep surfaces such as door handles, kitchen bench tops, phones, and keyboards clean
Drink plenty of fluids and rest
Paracetamol is useful for a fever

"We certainly do crack the whip to make sure that these vaccines are going to be available, and then put on the National Immunisation Program, and then funded to the tune of at least $40 million so that vulnerable Australians can be protected come the next flu season," Ms Ley said.

That $40 million goes to the National Immunisation Program, which provides free vaccination to vulnerable people.

These include children aged under three years old, people aged over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions.

"We know that the more people we get vaccinated, the better, because it keeps the opportunity for flu spreading in the community as low as possible," Ms Ley said.

"We need to make sure we vaccinate against the flu, before the flu gets you."

Source: ABC News

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