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Survey shows high impact of flu on people with asthma but low vaccination rate amongst children

MEDIA RELEASE

31 March 2017

SYDNEY: Asthma Australia is urging people with asthma to be vaccinated against the flu to help them avoid prolonged sickness and time off work and school, based on new survey data.

Asthma Australia surveyed more than 500 people with asthma and their carers finding 64% took days off work, school or study as a result of flu and asthma, and 66% required 3 days leave or more.

Although 51% of carers required days off to care for a person with asthma and flu, only 59% of carers said they were considering vaccination this year.

Asthma affects 1 in 9 Australians. Respiratory viruses such as flu are one of the most common triggers.

“Managing asthma year-round is very important but during flu season the flu vaccine can offer extra protection for people with asthma who may experience debilitating symptoms and longer recovery periods if their asthma is exacerbated by flu,” said Michele Goldman, CEO Asthma Australia.

In 2016, the 0-5 age group had the second highest flu rate1 and children are more likely to contract influenza in any given season: 20-50% compared with 10-30% of adults2.

The carers who responded to the survey were mainly people caring for children with asthma. They showed a high level of hospital attendance; 53% said the person they cared for attended an emergency department and 34% were admitted to hospital due to flu-exacerbated asthma.

However, 41% of carers stated that the person with asthma they cared for was not likely to be vaccinated against flu this year. Of individuals who responded to the survey for themselves 70% said they would be vaccinated this year.

Respiratory specialist Dr Simon Bowler said: “Influenza is unpleasant for anyone but for people with asthma it can be more serious and lead to longer periods of illness or time in hospital. The flu vaccine is recommended from 6 months of age but any parents who have concerns should talk to their doctor.”

Seventy percent of survey respondents said they needed to see their doctor and 67% said their asthma continued to be affected for a week or more after catching the flu.

13SICK, National Home Doctor Service also reports that their top 2 reasons for callouts in winter are acute respiratory infections including flu, followed by asthma.

“Asthma flare-ups are one of the top five reasons people call us. In winter, we see an increase in home visits to treat asthma-related conditions.  This is likely due to seasonal triggers such as cold weather and respiratory viruses, including influenza. There’s not a lot we can do about the weather but the flu vaccine is an important step people can take to protect themselves through winter,” said Dr Umberto Russo, Chief Medical Officer, National Home Doctor Service.

Vaccination in mid-April is recommended to offer protection throughout flu season.

For support with asthma call the 1800 ASTHMA Helpline (1800 278 462).

Survey participants were recruited via Asthma Australia’s website and social media channels. Consumers were asked to provide their experiences with asthma and flu via an online survey.

ENDS

Media enquiries: Annette Stenhouse 0416 861 732

Michele Goldman is available for interview

Simon Bowler is available for interview

Dr Umberto Russo is available for interview

Local case studies are available for interview 

References:

1 Australian Influenza Surveillance Report: http://www.health.gov.au/flureport#annual

2 The Immunisation Coalition: http://www.flusmart.org.au/article/flu-facts/

About Asthma Australia 

For over 50 years Asthma Australia and Asthma Foundations have been the leaders in asthma health care, research and support. Asthma Australia delivers evidence-based preventative health strategies to over 200,000 people every year and provides support, training and resources to the primary health care sector. They fund vital basic science and population health research contributing to national and international understandings of asthma and how best to manage the disease.

About National Home Doctor Service (13SICK)

National Home Doctor Service is Australia’s largest network of after hours, home visiting doctors.  They bulk bill all patients with a Medicare or Gold DVA card.  Their doctors are on the road from 6pm weeknights, 12 noon Saturdays, all day Sundays and public holidays.  To book a bulk billed, after hours, doctor home visit, simply call 13SICK (that’s 13 7425).  To confirm National Home Doctor’s coverage area, use the suburb locator on their home page (www.homedoctor.com.au).

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