WHEN Melbourne grandmother Deborah Cutts woke up one Tuesday before Easter with a sore throat, she thought nothing of it.
"I woke up feeling odd. I was really tired and had a slight sore throat, but I felt well enough to go into work," said health worker Deborah.
But an hour after arriving at work, she started getting stomach cramps.
"A colleague thought I might have gastro. I left work straightaway and by the time I'd driven home, I had joint and muscle pain, a headache, and the sore throat had really ramped up. I felt shattered," she added.
Over the next three days Deborah was unable to get out bed. "The joint pain was particularly debilitating."
Four days after getting the sore throat, she made an appointment with her GP. A nose swab and blood test confirmed Deborah had Influenza A.
"I stayed at home to rest, as I was very mindful of spreading the flu to my family and friends, particularly my five-month-old granddaughter.
"It was isolating to stay at home, thank goodness for social media and the phone."
Deborah returned to work after 10 days at home, but said she still felt fatigued.
A relaxing holiday in Queensland then helped with her rest and recovery.
"This episode of the flu was unlike anything I've ever experienced. It took quite a while for my health and fitness to return.
I normally walk my dogs every day, but while I had the flu, I could barely reach a couple of houses down.
"Even now, a few months later, I have a post-viral cough and have had to get Ventolin for relief from bronchospasms."
Now Deborah is on the mend, but she has a message for anyone else who wants to avoid going through what she went through.
"It is out of your control whether or not you catch the flu, but you can protect yourself and your loved ones by having the influenza vaccine," she said.
"And if you do have the flu, stay at home to rest to avoid spreading the flu to others."
Each year the flu affects thousands of Australians and puts an enormous amount of pressure on our hospitals and health system.
Over 3,500 avoidable deaths occur in Australia every year from complications of seasonal flu, including pneumonia.
There have been more than one and a half times as many confirmed flu cases so far this year than in the whole of 2018, new data shows.
But despite the surge in early cases, experts say this year's season is not worse than average, and an early start to flu season could mean an early end.
This year to date, there have been 97,920 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza across Australia, compared with 58,870 cases for the whole of 2018, according to the latest data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS).
Anyone over 65 is eligible for a free flu shot that is specially formulated and gives them increased protection.
Looking after yourself when you have the flu
Symptoms of the flu hit very quickly and may last for several weeks.
The most common symptoms of the flu are:
- The sudden appearance of a high fever (38°C or more)
- A dry cough
- Body aches (especially in the head, lower back and legs) Feeling extremely weak and tired (and not wanting to get out of bed).
For most people, the best thing to do when you have the flu are to rest, drink plenty of fluids and stay at home.
But for vulnerable Australians, like young children, people aged 65 and over and people with a weakened immune system, the flu can have serious and devastating outcomes.
Anyone in these at-risk groups with flu-like symptoms should speak to their doctor as soon as possible.
There are prescription medications called "antiviral drugs" that can be used to treat flu illness. Antiviral drugs are not sold over-the-counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from a health care provider.
And remember, stopping the spread of the flu is as easy as making sure you're following three simple steps:
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow
- Wash your hands regularly
- And if you're sick, stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible.
For more information visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/flu
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