Annual Campaign Launch 2013

14 March 2013: Australia’s leading Influenza medical experts are urging Australian people to get flu vaccinations from tomorrow to avoid the epidemic levels of flu infection already seen in the US and Europe this year.

Supporting the national awareness campaign – be flusmart and you’re a lifesaver – will be some of Australia’s important lifesavers and volunteers including Surf Lifesavers, St John Ambulance and SES volunteers and Scouts, who will get their flu shot at a vaccination event today at Graduate House in Melbourne.

The 2013 flu vaccine is available nationally from tomorrow and early vaccination is critical to avoid catching or passing on the flu in the 2-week window between getting the shot and being fully immunised.

Dr. Alan Hampson, Chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group (ISG), Australia’s leading body, said: “We have already seen unusually high numbers of early cases in Australia this summer.”

“Sadly 87 children have already died in America as a result of complications from influenza and New York was declared a state of emergency in January with over 19,000 reported cases of influenza, or almost five times the number in 2012”, said Dr Hampson.

“The flu virus struck hard and early in the northern hemisphere winter and has spread quickly. While the timing of the main annual Influenza outbreak in Australia is unpredictable, we could well follow the same trend”, warned Dr Hampson.

“Getting a flu vaccination could save your life or the life of the people you love. That’s why we think that you’re a lifesaver when you’re flusmart!” said Dr. Hampson.

“We are happy to support the vaccination event today by donating the time of our nurses. Influenza is a potentially serious disease, and we support the message that Australians can help protect themselves and their community by getting a flu shot,” explained Paul Bates, Chief Medical Officer of Bupa Australia.

Flu vaccine is free for: pregnant women, those aged over 65 years, and children and adults suffering underlying medical conditions including asthma and respiratory problems, heart and kidney disease, and type 1 and 2 Diabetes.

“Healthy living alone, nor any amount of vitamin supplements will save you from catching, or more importantly passing on the flu to others who are vulnerable. Vaccination is still the single best prevention against influenza,” said Dr Hampson.

 The ISG is monitoring the spread and impact of the disease across the northern hemisphere and its development in Australia.

Vaccinations are available from 15 March from GPs and through work-based programs.

For an interview with a medical expert in your state, or with Dr Hampson, please call

Irena Bukhshtaber on 041 557 1222 or irena@isg.org.au, or

Susanne Sperber-Pflaumer on 9863 8651 or susanne@isg.org.au

For more info about the flu, the vaccine and how to protect yourself visit: www.flusmart.org.au