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The best means of handling influenza is to prevent getting the infection in the first place, which is accomplished through seasonal influenza and through actions taken to minimize its spread. In Australia, annual influenza vaccination is strongly recommended in the following groups who are at an increased risk of influenza complications:
- Persons aged 65 years and older
- Persons aged 6 months and older with medical conditions that can lead to complications from influenza
- Pregnant women
- Persons aged 6 months to less than 5 years, or 15 years and older who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
These persons can access Influenza vaccination funded by the Immunise Australia Program. For full details, visit the Immunise Australia website.
Actions that can be taken to minimize the spread of influenza include hand washing, cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces, coughing and sneezing into tissues, and, when ill, staying home and limiting contact with other people.
Many people who do get influenza have a moderate, self-limited illness and do not require medical treatment. Fluids, bed rest, and over-the-counter pain and fever reducing medications are used to relieve symptoms until the infection resolves.
Antibiotics are not effective against influenza but effective antiviral medications are available. If given, they should be started as soon as possible after the emergence of symptoms and can decrease the duration of symptoms and shedding of the virus when administered within the first 48 hours of the start of symptoms. These medications can lessen the severity and duration of the infection. The Australian government recommends treatment for those with confirmed or suspected influenza who have severe illness or who are at risk of severe complications. Those at high risk may be sometimes be treated before they become ill (antiviral chemoprophylaxis) if they have been in close contact with some who has influenza.
Those who develop secondary complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, will also require treatment with antibiotics.
Last Review Date: November 6, 2017