The colder months of the year, from April to October, are the flu season in Australia, so now is the time to think about arranging vaccination.
Unlike many other illnesses, the flu viruses change from year to year, so annual vaccination is the best protection. Because the vaccine is only effective for a few months, it is best to have the vaccine just before the season begins. Generally, this is April to May.
Last year was particularly bad, with Australia recording more than 221,000 people with flu infections, more than any other year.
The most vulnerable groups are pregnant women, people aged over 65 years, and very young children aged six months to five years in Victoria. These groups are all eligible for a free flu vaccine.
Those not eligible for a free flu vaccination can still obtain it on a user-pays basis.
You can get the vaccine from your doctor, community health clinic, or other vaccination providers.
Apart from vaccination, there are a number of steps people should take to minimise the risk of catching or spreading the flu.
Wash your hands with soap and water before and after contact with others, and before handling food.
Use alcohol-based hand wash if there are no washing facilities nearby.
Cover your nose and mouth with tissues or your elbow when you sneeze or cough.
Don't share personal items such as cups, plates and cutlery.
Stay away from school or the workplace when you are sick.
For more information about influenza and immunisation check your Council website or visit the Immunise Australia website at www.immunise.health.gov.au.