Indigenous families encouraged to have a flu shot ahead of winter
Aboriginal elder Aunty Ali Golding has a message she’d like to share with Indigenous families ahead of the onset of winter.
“Get your flu shot. It’s very important… because the flu can be very, very dangerous. You can even lose lives with flu. So keep having these injections for the flu,” Aunty Ali said.
Aboriginal people are among the groups considered by health experts to be at greater risk of influenza infection and hospitalisation.
Influenza, or flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.
Symptoms include high fever, dry cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, feeling unwell and a sore throat.
There are two main types of influenza virus that cause infection in people – types A and B – and many different strains of the virus.
Flu is a vaccine-preventable illness but a new vaccine needs to be given each year because flu viruses change all the time.
A new flu vaccine has been prepared for this year to best match the strains predicted for the coming flu season, which is at its peak in winter time.
NSW Health’s Winter Flu Campaign – It’s in your hands – encourages people to get a flu shot and combat the spread of the flu virus by practicing healthy respiratory hygiene habits.
Aunty Ali, a Biripai woman originally from NSW north coast but who now lives in southern Sydney, first sought advice from a doctor about her children having flu shots.
“I said ‘yes’ [to my children having a flu shot]. If it’s going to do them good and it’s going to keep them safe. Yes, go ahead and do it,” she said.
She encourages her family – her seven now-adult children, her grandchildren and great grandchildren – to have an annual flu shot before the colder weather arrives.
“I have flu shots every year. Every year. I don’t miss [them]. It’s very important that I do have it.
“My 24 grandkids and 33 great grandkids I’m all for them having these injections,” she said.
Aunty Ali, her daughter Victoria Golding and granddaughter Hannah Golding want to spread the word to other Indigenous families in Sydney Local Health District.
“Winter is just around the corner. We’re coming into the really cold weather. It’s important to have your flu shot to prevent [yourself] from getting sick,” Victoria said.
“Especially for the Aboriginal community. The children. For their health, it’s very important,” she said.
In NSW, free flu shots are available for all Aboriginal people from 6 months of age.
They are also available for pregnant women, children from 6 months to under 5 years, people with serious health conditions, including severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease, and all people 65 years and over.
In 2017, more than 650 people died from flu-related complications in New South Wales and the influenza epidemic affected more than 128 000 people.
Last year’s season was not as severe with 43 deaths from flu-related complications.
Practicing healthy respiratory hygiene also helps to prevent the spread of flu to others in the community:
“Health is so important. My family to me is number one”, Aunty Ali said.
“Even if I had a million dollars… a billion dollars… that was given to me and they’d ask me then ‘Family or a billion?’ I’d still say family.”
For more information about the flu and the influenza vaccination, please visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/flu