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What’s the difference between ‘man flu’ and flu? Hint: men may not be exaggerating

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/thea-van-de-mortel-1134101">Thea van de Mortel</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>The term “man flu” takes a <a href="https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/man-flu">humorous poke</a> at men with minor respiratory infections, such as colds, who supposedly exaggerate their symptoms.</p> <p>According to the stereotype, a man lies on the sofa with a box of tissues. Meanwhile his female partner, also with a snotty nose, carries on working from home, doing the chores and looking after him.</p> <p>But is man flu real? Is there a valid biological reason behind men’s symptoms or are men just malingering? And how does man flu differ from flu?</p> <h2>What are the similarities?</h2> <p>Man flu could refer to a number of respiratory infections – a cold, flu, even a mild case of COVID. So it’s difficult to compare man flu with flu.</p> <p>But for simplicity, let’s say man flu is actually a cold. If that’s the case, man flu and flu have some similar features.</p> <p>Both are caused by viruses (but different ones). Both are improved with rest, fluids, and if needed painkillers, throat lozenges or decongestants to <a href="https://activities.nps.org.au/nps-order-form/Resources/NPS-Cold-and-Flu-Brochure-May-2014.pdf">manage symptoms</a>.</p> <p>Both <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm">can share</a> similar symptoms. Typically, more severe symptoms such as fever, body aches, violent shivering and headaches are more common in flu (but sometimes occur in colds). Meanwhile sore throats, runny noses, congestion and sneezing are more common in colds. A cough is common in both.</p> <h2>What are the differences?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm">Flu</a> is a more serious and sometimes fatal respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Colds are caused by various viruses such as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3553670/">rhinoviruses</a>, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/adenovirus/about/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/adenovirus/symptoms.html">adenoviruses</a>, and common cold <a href="https://journals.lww.com/pidj/citation/2022/03000/proving_etiologic_relationships_to_disease_.18.aspx">coronaviruses</a>, and are rarely serious.<br />Colds tend to <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm">start gradually</a> while flu tends to start abruptly.</p> <p>Flu can be <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/overview-testing-methods.htm">detected</a> with laboratory or at-home tests. Man flu is not an official diagnosis.</p> <p>Severe flu symptoms may be prevented with <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm">a vaccine</a>, while cold symptoms cannot.</p> <p>Serious flu infections may also be <a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/racf-antiviral-treatments-and-prophylaxis.aspx">prevented or treated</a> with antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu. There are no antivirals for colds.</p> <h2>OK, but is man flu real?</h2> <p>Again, let’s assume man flu is a cold. Do men really have worse colds than women? The picture is complicated.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022399922003324?via%3Dihub">One study</a>, with the title “Man flu is not a thing”, did in fact show there <em>were</em> differences in men’s and women’s symptoms.</p> <p>This study looked at symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis. That’s inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses, which would explain a runny or stuffy nose, a sinus headache or face pain.</p> <p>When researchers assessed participants at the start of the study, men and women had similar symptoms. But by days five and eight of the study, women had fewer or less-severe symptoms. In other words, women had recovered faster.</p> <p>But when participants rated their own symptoms, we saw a somewhat different picture. Women rated their symptoms worse than how the researchers rated them at the start, but said they recovered more quickly.</p> <p>All this suggests men were not exaggerating their symptoms and did indeed recover more slowly. It also suggests women feel their symptoms more strongly at the start.</p> <h2>Why is this happening?</h2> <p>It’s not straightforward to tease out what’s going on biologically.</p> <p>There are <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nri.2016.90">differences</a> in immune responses between men and women that provide a plausible reason for worse symptoms in men.</p> <p>For instance, women generally produce antibodies more efficiently, so they <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nri.2016.90">respond more effectively</a> to vaccination. Other aspects of women’s immune system also appear to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2735332/">work more strongly</a>.</p> <p>So why do women tend to have <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nri.2016.90">stronger immune responses</a> overall? That’s probably partly because women have two X chromosomes while men have one. X chromosomes carry important <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nri.2016.90#Tab3">immune function genes</a>. This gives women the benefit of immune-related genes from two different chromosomes.</p> <p>Oestrogen (the female sex hormone) also seems to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nri.2016.90">strengthen</a> the immune response, and as levels vary throughout the lifespan, so does <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciimmunol.aan2946">the strength</a> of women’s immune systems.</p> <p>Men are certainly more likely to die from some infectious diseases, such as <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-deaths/deaths-in-australia/contents/covid-10-deaths">COVID</a>. But the picture is less clear with other infections such as the flu, where the incidence and mortality between men and women <a href="https://iris.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665/44401/9789241500111_eng.pdf?sequence=1&amp;isAllowed=y">varies widely</a> between countries and particular flu subtypes and outbreaks.</p> <p>Infection rates and outcomes in men and women can also depend on the way a virus is <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/immunology/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2021.712688/full">transmitted</a>, the person’s age, and social and behavioural factors.</p> <p>For instance, women seem to be more likely to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8077589/#R20">practice protective behaviours</a> such as washing their hands, wearing masks or avoiding crowded indoor spaces. Women are also <a href="https://bmcprimcare.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12875-016-0440-0">more likely</a> to seek medical care when ill.</p> <h2>So men aren’t faking it?</h2> <p>Some evidence suggests men are not over-reporting symptoms, and may take longer to clear an infection. So they may experience man flu more harshly than women with a cold.</p> <p>So cut the men in your life some slack. If they are sick, gender stereotyping is unhelpful, and may discourage men from seeking medical advice.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231161/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/thea-van-de-mortel-1134101">Thea van de Mortel</a>, Professor, Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-man-flu-and-flu-hint-men-may-not-be-exaggerating-231161">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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"Worst nightmare": Teen dies one day after flu diagnosis

<p>William Jones was complaining of a sore throat and cough last month and when his mum called the doctor, they were told that it was most likely the flu. </p> <p>However, the following morning when Rebecca Rollason went to check on her 16-year-old son, he was found unresponsive in his bed in their Wellington home. </p> <p>"We ask ourselves how what started as a sore throat, snotty nose and a cough on Tuesday to no longer with us three days later,"  the grieving mum told the <em>NZ Herald</em>. </p> <p>"No one understands, we don't know what happened... it feels like the worst nightmare that we cannot wake from."</p> <p>Rollason explained that her family have to "wait for results" in hopes of understanding what happened and how the teenager, who was barely sick, passed away so suddenly. </p> <p>"We just don’t understand how this can happen to a boy who was barely ever sick and was very healthy," she said.</p> <p> "It is an incredibly hard and devastating time for us."</p> <p>A family friend has helped set up a <a href="https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/rebecca-lost-her-son-william-last-friday" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fundraising page</a> to help relieve the financial pressure on her and William's two brothers while they grieve. </p> <p>"It is every parents worst nightmare and a shocking tragedy to lose a healthy child from a sudden and brief illness," a statement from the fundraising page read. </p> <p>"The money will help the family with funeral costs and ease Financial burden while they grieve and come to terms with Williams passing." </p> <p>On July 1 they shared an update on the fundraising page, saying: "Rebecca and family would like all to know that are incredibly grateful for all the support and kindness." </p> <p><em>Image: Givealittle </em></p> <p> </p>

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COVID vaccines saved millions of lives – linking them to excess deaths is a mistake

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-hunter-991309">Paul Hunter</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-east-anglia-1268">University of East Anglia</a></em></p> <p>A recent <a href="https://bmjpublichealth.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000282">study</a> has sparked another <a href="https://nypost.com/2024/06/06/us-news/covid-vaccines-may-have-helped-fuel-rise-in-excess-deaths-since-pandemic-study/">round of</a> <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/06/04/covid-vaccines-may-have-helped-fuel-rise-in-excess-deaths/">headlines</a> <a href="https://www.gbnews.com/health/covid-vaccine-side-effects-deaths">claiming</a> that COVID vaccines caused excess deaths. This was accompanied by a predictable outpouring of <a href="https://x.com/DrAseemMalhotra/status/1797922073798717524">I-told-you-sos</a> on social media.</p> <p>Excess deaths are a measure of how many more deaths are being recorded in a country over what would have been expected based on historical trends. In the UK, and in many other countries, death rates have been higher during the years 2020 to 2023 than would have been expected based on historic trends from before the pandemic. But that has been known for some time. A couple of years ago I wrote an article for <a href="https://theconversation.com/summer-2022-saw-thousands-of-excess-deaths-in-england-and-wales-heres-why-that-might-be-189351">The Conversation</a> pointing this out and suggesting some reasons. But has anything changed?</p> <p>The authors of the new study, published in BMJ Public Health, used publicly available data from <a href="https://ourworldindata.org/COVID-vaccinations">Our World in Data</a> to determine which countries had “statistically significant” excess deaths – in other words, excess deaths that couldn’t be explained by mere random variation.</p> <p>They studied the years 2020 to 2022 and found that many, but not all, countries did indeed report excess deaths. The authors did not try to explain why these excess deaths occurred, but the suggestion that COVID vaccines could have played a role is clear from their text – and indeed widely interpreted as such by certain newspapers.</p> <p>There is no doubt that a few deaths were associated with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/25166026211053485">the COVID vaccines</a>, but could the vaccination programme explain the large number of excess deaths – 3 million in 47 countries – that have been reported?</p> <p>Based on <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/excessdeathsinenglandandwales/march2020todecember2021">death certificates</a>, during 2020 and 2021 there were more deaths from COVID than estimated excess deaths in the UK. So during the year 2021 when most vaccine doses were administered, there were actually fewer non-COVID deaths than would have been expected. It was only in 2022 that excess deaths <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/deathregistrationsummarystatisticsenglandandwales/2022">exceeded COVID deaths</a>.</p> <p>If the vaccination campaign was contributing to the excess deaths that we have seen in recent years, then we should expect to see more deaths in people who have been vaccinated than in those who have not. The most reliable analysis in this regard was done by the UK’s <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/excessdeathsinenglandandwales/march2020todecember2021">Office for National Statistics (ONS)</a>. In this analysis, the ONS matched death registrations with the vaccine histories of each death recorded. They then calculated “age-standardised death rates” to account for age differences between those vaccinated and those not.</p> <p>What the ONS found was that in all months from April 2021 to May 2023, the death rate <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/redir/eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJpbmRleCI6MSwicGFnZVNpemUiOjEwLCJwYWdlIjoxLCJ1cmkiOiIvcGVvcGxlcG9wdWxhdGlvbmFuZGNvbW11bml0eS9iaXJ0aHNkZWF0aHNhbmRtYXJyaWFnZXMvZGVhdGhzL2RhdGFzZXRzL2V4Y2Vzc2RlYXRoc2luZW5nbGFuZGFuZHdhbGVzIiwibGlzdFR5cGUiOiJyZWxhdGVkZGF0YSJ9.Cot-XDe8Rr07paGllBNnVVz1nTqnXfVafn2woA3tk0c">from all causes was higher</a> in the unvaccinated than in people who had been vaccinated at least once.</p> <p>That deaths from all causes were lower in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated should come as no surprise given that COVID was a major cause of death in 2021 and 2022. And there is ample evidence of the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10492612/">protective effect of vaccines</a> against severe COVID and death. But what is even more convincing is that, even when known COVID deaths were excluded in the ONS report, the death rate in the unvaccinated was still higher, albeit not by very much in more recent months.</p> <p>Some COVID deaths would certainly not have been recognised as such. But, on the other hand, people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, were a high priority for vaccination. And these people would have been at increased risk of death even before the pandemic.</p> <h2>Possible causes</h2> <p>If the vaccine is not the cause of the excess deaths, what was?</p> <p>The major cause of the excess deaths reported in the first two years of the BMJ Public Health study was deaths from COVID. But by 2022, excess deaths exceeded COVID deaths in many countries.</p> <p>Possible <a href="https://theconversation.com/summer-2022-saw-thousands-of-excess-deaths-in-england-and-wales-heres-why-that-might-be-189351">explanations</a> for these excess deaths include longer-term effects of earlier COVID infections, the return of infections such as influenza that had been suppressed during the COVID control measures, adverse effects of lockdowns on physical and mental health, and delays in the diagnosis of life-threatening infections as health services struggled to cope with the pandemic and its aftermath.</p> <p>We do need to look very carefully at how the pandemic was managed. There is still considerable debate about the effectiveness of different behavioural control measures, such as self-isolation and lockdowns. Even when such interventions were effective at reducing transmission of COVID, what were the harms and were the gains worth the harms? Nevertheless, we can be confident that the excess deaths seen in recent years were not a consequence of the vaccination campaign.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231776/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-hunter-991309">Paul Hunter</a>, Professor of Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-east-anglia-1268">University of East Anglia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/covid-vaccines-saved-millions-of-lives-linking-them-to-excess-deaths-is-a-mistake-231776">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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With all this bird flu around, how safe are eggs, chicken or milk?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/enzo-palombo-249510">Enzo Palombo</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>Recent outbreaks of bird flu – in <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-flu-summary.htm">US dairy herds</a>, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2024-06-04/third-victorian-poultry-farm-declares-outbreak-avian-influenza/103932694">poultry farms in Australia</a> and elsewhere, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/bird-flu-is-hitting-australian-poultry-farms-and-the-first-human-case-has-been-reported-in-victoria-heres-what-we-know-230691">isolated cases</a> <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2024/05/30/bird-flu-third-case-human-infection-caused-respiratory-symptoms/">in humans</a> – have raised the issue of food safety.</p> <p>So can the virus transfer from infected farm animals to contaminate milk, meat or eggs? How likely is this?</p> <p>And what do we need to think about to minimise our risk when shopping for or preparing food?</p> <h2>How safe is milk?</h2> <p>Bird flu (or avian influenza) is a bird disease caused by specific types of influenza virus. But the virus can also infect cows. <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-flu-summary.htm">In the US</a>, for instance, to date more than 80 dairy herds in at least nine states have been infected with the H5N1 version of the virus.</p> <p>Investigations are <a href="https://www.aphis.usda.gov/livestock-poultry-disease/avian/avian-influenza/hpai-detections/livestock">under way</a> to confirm how this happened. But we do know infected birds can shed the virus in their saliva, nasal secretions and faeces. So bird flu can potentially contaminate animal-derived food products during processing and manufacturing.</p> <p>Indeed, fragments of bird flu genetic material (RNA) were found in <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-bird-flu-virus-fragments-get-into-milk-sold-in-stores-and-what-the-spread-of-h5n1-in-cows-means-for-the-dairy-industry-and-milk-drinkers-228689">cow’s milk</a> from the dairy herds associated with <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2024/05/30/bird-flu-third-case-human-infection-caused-respiratory-symptoms/">infected US farmers</a>.</p> <p>However, the spread of bird flu among cattle, and possibly to humans, is likely to have been caused through contact with <a href="https://www.agriculturedive.com/news/contaminated-milk-equipment-potential-source-of-bird-flu-spread-to-cattle/712555/">contaminated milking equipment</a>, not the milk itself.</p> <p>The test used to detect the virus in milk – which uses similar PCR technology to lab-based COVID tests – is also highly sensitive. This means it can detect very low levels of the bird flu RNA. But the test does not distinguish between live or inactivated virus, just that the RNA is present. So from this test alone, we cannot tell if the virus found in milk is infectious (and capable of infecting humans).</p> <p>Does that mean milk is safe to drink and won’t transmit bird flu? Yes and no.</p> <p>In Australia, where bird flu has not been reported in dairy cattle, the answer is yes. It is safe to drink milk and milk products made from Australian milk.</p> <p>In the US, the answer depends on whether the milk is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B978184569216250013X?via%3Dihub">pasteurised</a>. We know pasteurisation is a common and reliable method of destroying concerning microbes, including influenza virus. Like most viruses, influenza virus (including bird flu virus) is inactivated by heat.</p> <p>Although there is little direct research on whether pasteurisation inactivates H5N1 in milk, we can extrapolate from what we know about heat inactivation of H5N1 in <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0362028X22060732?via%3Dihub">chicken</a> and <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2036-7481/13/4/60">eggs</a>.</p> <p>So we can be confident there is no risk of bird flu transmission via pasteurised milk or milk products.</p> <p>However, it’s another matter for unpasteurised or “raw” US milk or milk products. A recent <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2405495">study</a> showed mice fed raw milk contaminated with bird flu developed signs of illness. So to be on the safe side, it would be advisable to avoid raw milk products.</p> <h2>How about chicken?</h2> <p>Bird flu has caused sporadic outbreaks in wild birds and domestic poultry worldwide, including <a href="https://theconversation.com/bird-flu-is-hitting-australian-poultry-farms-and-the-first-human-case-has-been-reported-in-victoria-heres-what-we-know-230691">in Australia</a>. In recent weeks, there have been <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2024-06-04/third-victorian-poultry-farm-declares-outbreak-avian-influenza/103932694">three reported outbreaks</a> in <a href="https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/biosecurity/animal-diseases/poultry-diseases/avian-influenza-bird-flu#h2-0">Victorian poultry farms</a> (two with H7N3 bird flu, one with H7N9). There has been <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2024-05-23/bird-flu-detected-western-australia-chicken-farm/103880002">one</a> reported outbreak in <a href="https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/livestock-biosecurity/avian-influenza">Western Australia</a> (H9N2).</p> <p>The strains of bird flu identified in the Victorian and Western Australia outbreaks can cause human infection, although these <a href="https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/biosecurity/animal-diseases/poultry-diseases/avian-influenza-bird-flu#h2-8">are rare</a> and typically result from close contact with infected live birds or <a href="https://www.who.int/emergencies/situations/avian-influenza-a-(h7n9)-virus-outbreak">contaminated environments</a>.</p> <p>Therefore, the chance of bird flu transmission in chicken meat is remote.</p> <p>Nonetheless, it is timely to remind people to handle chicken meat with caution as many dangerous pathogens, such as <em>Salmonella</em> and <em>Campylobacter</em>, can be found on chicken carcasses.</p> <p>Always handle chicken meat carefully when shopping, transporting it home and storing it in the kitchen. For instance, make sure no meat juices cross-contaminate other items, consider using a cool bag when transporting meat, and refrigerate or freeze the meat within two hours.</p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/no-you-shouldnt-wash-raw-chicken-before-cooking-it-so-why-do-people-still-do-it-192723">Avoid washing your chicken</a> before cooking to prevent the spread of disease-causing microbes around the kitchen.</p> <p>Finally, cook chicken thoroughly as viruses (including bird flu) <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0362028X22060732?via%3Dihub">cannot survive</a> cooking temperatures.</p> <h2>Are eggs safe?</h2> <p>The recent Australian outbreaks have occurred in egg-laying or mixed poultry flocks, so concerns have been raised about bird flu transmission via contaminated chicken eggs.</p> <p>Can flu viruses contaminate chicken eggs and potentially spread bird flu? It appears so. A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0196655306011862?via%3Dihub">report</a> from 2007 said it was feasible for influenza viruses to enter through the eggshell. This is because influenza virus particles are smaller (100 nanometres) than the pores in eggshells (at least 200 nm).</p> <p>So viruses could enter eggs and be protected from cleaning procedures designed to remove microbes from the egg surface.</p> <p>Therefore, like the advice about milk and meat, cooking eggs is best.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/egg-guidance-regulation-and-other-information/questions-and-answers-regarding-safety-eggs-during-highly-pathogenic-avian-influenza-outbreaks">US Food and Drug Administration</a> recommends cooking poultry, eggs and other animal products to the proper temperature and preventing cross-contamination between raw and cooked food.</p> <h2>In a nutshell</h2> <p>If you consume pasteurised milk products and thoroughly cook your chicken and eggs, there is nothing to worry about as bird flu is inactivated by heat.</p> <p>The real fear is that the virus will evolve into highly pathogenic versions that can be transmitted from <a href="https://theconversation.com/bird-flu-is-hitting-australian-poultry-farms-and-the-first-human-case-has-been-reported-in-victoria-heres-what-we-know-230691">human to human</a>.</p> <p>That scenario is much more frightening than any potential spread though food.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231280/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/enzo-palombo-249510">Enzo Palombo</a>, Professor of Microbiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-all-this-bird-flu-around-how-safe-are-eggs-chicken-or-milk-231280">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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The growing promise of cancer vaccines

<div class="copy"> <p>A cure for cancer — which is <a href="https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/burden-of-disease-by-cause" target="_blank" rel="noopener">second only to cardiovascular diseases</a> in its contribution to the global burden of disease — has long been a dream.</p> <p>While no magic bullet is yet in sight, three vaccines for particular skin and lung cancer types have advanced to the last stage of clinical trials in recent months.</p> <p>If successful, these vaccines should be available to patients in the next three to 11 years. Unlike vaccines which prevent diseases, these aim to cure them or prevent relapses.</p> <p>Cancer in every person is different because the cells in every cancerous tumour have different sets of genetic mutations. Recognising this, two of the vaccines are personalised and tailor-made for each patient. Oncologists working with pharmaceutical companies have developed these individualised neoantigen therapies.</p> <p>A vaccine typically works by training the immune cells of our body to recognise antigens – proteins from pathogens, such as viruses – against future attacks by the pathogen.</p> <p>In cancer, however, there is no external pathogen. The cells of a cancerous tumour undergo continuous mutations, some of which help them to grow much faster than normal cells while some others help them evade the body’s natural immune system. The mutated proteins in cancerous cells are called ‘neoantigens’.</p> <p>In individualised neoantigen therapy, the gene sequence of the tumour and normal blood cells are compared to identify neoantigens from each patient, and then a subset of neoantigens are chosen that are most likely to induce an immune response. The vaccine for an individual patient targets this chosen subset of neoantigens.</p> <p>These vaccines, jointly developed by pharma giants Moderna and Merck, have been shown in trials conducted so far to be significantly more effective in combination with immunotherapy than immunotherapy alone in preventing both the relapse of melanoma — a type of skin cancer — and non-small cell lung cancer after the tumours had been surgically removed.</p> <p>Following these promising results in phase II clinical trials, the vaccines are now being tested on a larger group of patients in phase III trials. The studies are expected to be complete by 2030 for <a href="https://clinicaltrials.gov/study/NCT05933577" target="_blank" rel="noopener">melanoma</a> and 2035 for <a href="https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/study/NCT06077760?intr=mRNA-4157&amp;rank=3" target="_blank" rel="noopener">lung cancer</a>.</p> <p>The Moderna-Merck cancer vaccine may not be the first to reach the market. The French company OSE Immunotherapeutics <a href="https://www.clinicaltrialsarena.com/news/ose-shares-pipeline-updates-with-plans-phase-iii-trial-for-tedopi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">published positive results</a> last September from phase III clinical trials of a vaccine using a different approach for advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Its vaccine, Tedopi, is scheduled to start <a href="https://finance.yahoo.com/news/ose-immunotherapeutics-receives-8-4-160000694.html?guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&amp;guce_referrer_sig=AQAAADAX7Kqu7RTAEowvwOw2f-2cJ7SJ4uLpvjH-3tXzGtifqidaZfPs4eHLz23UqqjHDPjbVE1Vwel5qIKzKbmWvPLfLQzzH_PvKJAMsqTHuz8p5nPoR39RbIToLShEUG53eOeDFg6pWlRc2JPqrX7sGnc3ByO9FFfqXQYpZ4FZ-jgr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">confirmatory trials</a> – which are the last step before regulatory approval – later this year and may be available by 2027.</p> <p>Vaccines for pancreatic cancer being developed by BioNTech and Genentech, and for colon cancer by Gritstone, are also showing promising results in the early phases of clinical trials. Like the vaccines being developed by Moderna and Merck, these too are individualised neoantigen therapies based on messenger RNA (mRNA).</p> <p>There is another kind of RNA therapy also under development that uses small interfering RNA (siRNA) and microRNA (miRNA). Since 2018, six siRNA-based therapies have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of neural, skin, heart and renal diseases. Several more siRNA drugs are at various clinical trial stages for different types of cancer and a diverse range of other diseases.</p> <p>Within cells, there are two kinds of nucleic acid molecules that contain coded information vital to life: DNA and RNA. While DNA contains genetic information, mRNA — one among the different types of RNA — carries the codes for the proteins. In addition, there are also non-coding RNA, some of which are functionally important. siRNA and miRNA are examples of such non-coding RNA.</p> <p>The RNA vaccine for an individualised neoantigen therapy is a cocktail of mRNA carrying the codes for neoantigens — the mutated fingerprint proteins in cancerous cells. For the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41591-023-00072-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Moderna-Merck study</a>, scientists identified 34 neoantigens per patient. They delivered the corresponding mRNA vaccine cocktail packed in lipid nanoparticles, just like the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.</p> <p>When the vaccine is delivered after removing the tumour, it trains the immune system to recognise neoantigens and fight back against the cancer returning. Usually, the body’s natural immune system corrects mutations and prevents us from having cancers. However, in some cases this natural immune response is insufficient, leading to tumour growth. In individualised neoantigen therapy, these mutations in the tumour cells are used for vaccine development and for training the immune system to fight back against relapse after removal of the tumour.</p> <p>Recent advances in artificial intelligence are helping identify potential neoantigens and manage personalised therapies. Firstly, gene sequencing of tumours and normal blood cells of a patient and their comparison produces a huge amount of data. AI is used to find the genetic mutations of the patient’s cancer in such ‘big data’. Moreover, individualised therapy requires timely production and delivery of vaccines that are different for each patient. AI is also useful in the management of such data.</p> <p>The individualised nature of the treatment is probably why it has been <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41591-023-00072-0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more effective in trials</a> than previous, unsuccessful RNA vaccine candidates. However, this personalisation is also likely to raise challenges for the timely and cost-effective delivery of treatment to populations around the world.</p> <p>The siRNA and miRNA treatments work in a way opposite to mRNA. While each mRNA in a vaccine carries the code for producing a protein from a pathogen (antigen) or tumour (neoantigen) to train our immune systems against future attacks by the pathogen or tumour, siRNA directly targets the mRNA of the antigen or neoantigen and terminates the production of the protein it codes. Thus, the effect of a siRNA is more direct and immediate (like a drug), rather than a protection against future attacks (like a vaccine).</p> <p>Discovered at the turn of this millennium, siRNA-based therapeutics attracted immediate attention, but their initial success was limited due to their inherent low stability, difficulties in delivering them to desired locations, and rapid clearance from the bloodstream. However, in recent years, siRNA therapies have been boosted through chemical modifications that have increased their stability and ability to be delivered to specific locations such as tumours, and improved delivery systems such as lipid nanoparticle encasings.</p> <p>These improvements led to recent successes in FDA approvals of siRNA-based therapies and further <a href="https://www.rockefeller.edu/news/35461-a-new-way-to-target-the-culprit-behind-a-deadly-liver-cancer/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">promising reports of advances</a> in the treatment of diseases including a type of liver cancer.</p> <p><em>Research scientist </em><em><strong>Dr Bidyut Sarkar</strong></em><em> is the DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance Intermediate Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Shiv Nadar Institute of Eminence, Delhi NCR, India.</em></p> <p><em>Originally published under <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Creative Commons</a> by <a href="https://360info.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">360info</a>™.</em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <div> <p align="center"><noscript data-spai="1"><em><img decoding="async" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-198773" src="https://cdn.shortpixel.ai/spai/q_lossy+ret_img+to_auto/cosmosmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/MICROSCOPIC-TO-TELESCOPIC__Embed-graphic-720x360-1.jpg" data-spai-egr="1" width="600" alt="Buy cosmos print magazine" title="the growing promise of cancer vaccines 2"></em></noscript></p> </div> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=304875&amp;title=The+growing+promise+of+cancer+vaccines" width="1" height="1" loading="lazy" aria-label="Syndication Tracker" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /> <!-- End of tracking content syndication --></em></div> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/the-body/the-growing-promise-of-cancer-vaccines/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/360info-2/">360info</a>. Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.</em></p> </div>

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Too many Australians aren’t getting a flu vaccine. Why, and what can we do about it?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/holly-seale-94294">Holly Seale</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australia’s childhood immunisation program gets very good uptake every year – <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/immunisation-data/childhood-immunisation-coverage">almost 94% of five-year-olds</a> have had all their routine vaccinations. But our influenza vaccine coverage doesn’t get such a good report card.</p> <p>Looking back over <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/influenza-vaccination-coverage-data/historical-national-influenza-vaccination-coverage-end-year-age">recent years</a>, for kids aged six months to five years, we saw a peak in flu vaccine coverage at the beginning of the COVID pandemic at 46%, which then declined to 30% by the 2023 season.</p> <p>While we’re still relatively early in the 2024 flu season, only <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/influenza-vaccination-coverage-data">7% of children</a> under five have received their flu shot this year so far.</p> <p>Although young children are a particular concern, flu vaccination rates appear to be lagging for the population as a whole. Reports indicate that <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-05-07/calls-to-vaccinate-young-children-against-flu-as-season-begins/103783508">from March 1 to April 28</a>, 16% fewer people were vaccinated against the flu compared with the same period last year.</p> <p>So what’s going on, and what can we do to boost uptake?</p> <h2>Why do we vaccinate kids against the flu?</h2> <p>Last year, <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-12/aisr-2023-national-influenza-season-summary.pdf">reported cases of flu</a> were highest in children aged five to nine, followed by those aged zero to four. This is not a new trend – we record a high number of flu cases and hospital admissions in kids every year. So far <a href="https://nindss.health.gov.au/pbi-dashboard/">this year</a> children aged zero to four have had the highest number of infections, marginally ahead of five- to nine-year-olds.</p> <p>While kids are more likely to catch and spread the flu, they’re also <a href="https://theconversation.com/kids-are-more-vulnerable-to-the-flu-heres-what-to-look-out-for-this-winter-117748">at greater risk</a> of getting very sick from it. This particularly applies to children under five, and the flu vaccine is available for free for this age group.</p> <p>The flu vaccine isn’t perfect – it may not prevent infections entirely – but it’s definitely our best chance of protection. Research has shown influenza-related visits to the GP were <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27577556/">more than halved</a> in vaccinated children compared with unvaccinated children.</p> <h2>So why are kids not receiving the vaccine?</h2> <p>Often, it comes down to misunderstandings about who is eligible for the vaccine or whom it’s recommended for. But we can address this issue by nudging people via <a href="https://www.annfammed.org/content/15/6/507?sf174332549=1">a text message reminder</a>.</p> <p>Some parents <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X17318285">report concerns</a> about the vaccine, including the old dogma that it can cause the flu. The flu vaccine <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/flu-influenza-immunisation">can’t give you the flu</a> because it doesn’t contain live virus. Unfortunately, that myth is really sticky.</p> <p>For <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jpc.15235">some parents</a>, the challenge can be forgetting to book or accessing an appointment.</p> <h2>It’s not just kids at higher risk</h2> <p>Adults aged 65 and over are also <a href="https://theconversation.com/im-over-65-and-worried-about-the-flu-which-vaccine-should-i-have-204810">more vulnerable</a> to the flu, and can receive a <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine">free vaccine</a>. For this group, we usually get around <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/influenza-vaccination-coverage-data/historical-national-influenza-vaccination-coverage-end-year-age">65% vaccinated</a>. So far this year, <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/influenza-vaccination-coverage-data/national-influenza-vaccination-coverage-all-people-age-group">around 35%</a> of over-65s have received their flu vaccine.</p> <p>Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are likewise eligible for a free flu vaccine. While previously coverage rates were higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples compared to the overall population, this gap has narrowed. There’s even some movement backwards, especially <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/influenza-vaccination-coverage-data/historical-national-influenza-vaccination-coverage-end-year-age">in younger age groups</a>.</p> <p>The flu vaccine is also free for pregnant women and anyone who has <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/when-to-get-vaccinated/immunisation-for-people-with-medical-risk-conditions">a medical condition</a> such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes or kidney disease.</p> <p>Past studies have found flu vaccine coverage <a href="https://www.phrp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/PHRP31232111.pdf">for pregnant women</a> varies around the country from 39% to 76% (meaning in some jurisdictions up to 60% of pregnant women are not getting vaccinated). When it comes to adults with chronic health conditions, we don’t have a good sense of how many people receive the vaccine.</p> <p>The reasons adults don’t always get the flu vaccine overlap with the reasons for children. Often <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08870446.2021.1957104">concerns about side effects</a> are cited as the reason for not getting vaccinated, followed by time constraints.</p> <p>We also know <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/primary-health-care/coordination-of-health-care-experiences-barriers/summary">accessing medical services</a> can be difficult for some people, such as those living in rural areas or experiencing financial hardship.</p> <h2>Filling the gaps</h2> <p>In Australia, GPs offer flu vaccines for all ages, while flu vaccination is also available at pharmacies, generally from age five and up.</p> <p>While some people make a conscious decision not to get themselves or their children vaccinated, for many people, the barriers are related to access.</p> <p>Programs offering vaccination outside the doctor’s office are increasing globally, and may assist in <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14760584.2019.1698955">filling gaps</a>, especially among those who don’t have regular access to a GP.</p> <p>For some people, their only point of contact with the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34272104/">medical system</a> may be during emergency department visits. Others may have more regular contact with a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7046372/">specialist</a> who coordinates their medical care, rather than a GP.</p> <p>Offering vaccine education and programs <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0009922810374353">in these settings</a> has been shown to improve immunisation rates and may play a pivotal role in filling access gaps.</p> <p>Outside medical and pharmacy settings, the workplace is the most common place for Australian adults to receive their flu vaccine. A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1326020023004272">survey</a> showed Australian adults find workplace vaccination convenient and cost-effective, especially where free or subsidised vaccines are offered.</p> <p>Expanding vaccination settings, such as with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/19375867221087360?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">drive-through</a> and mobile clinics, can benefit groups who have unique access barriers or are under-served. Meanwhile, offering vaccination through faith-based organisations has been shown to improve uptake among <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37013523/">racial and ethnic minority groups</a>.</p> <p><em>Eleftheria Lentakis, a masters student at the School of Population Health at UNSW Sydney, contributed to this article.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/229477/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/holly-seale-94294"><em>Holly Seale</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, School of Population Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/too-many-australians-arent-getting-a-flu-vaccine-why-and-what-can-we-do-about-it-229477">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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AstraZeneca admits to Covid vaccine's deadly side effect

<p>AstraZeneca has admitted that their Covid vaccine carries a very rare but deadly side effect, as "dozens" of class-action lawsuits pile up. </p> <p>The UK pharmaceutical giant could be facing damages of up to $38 million, as lawyers representing complainants whose loved ones who were injured or killed from the jab called the vaccine "defective". </p> <p>Those who received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine could be susceptible to a rare and potentially blood clotting disorder called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, in which patients suffer from blood clots as well as a low blood platelet count. </p> <p>While the side effect is rare, recent research from RMIT University and Monash University found Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout likely prevented the death of 17,760 people aged over 50 in New South Wales between August 2021 and July 2022, with some researchers suggesting that AstraZeneca alone helped saved as many as six million lives worldwide, according to the <a title="nypost.com" href="https://nypost.com/2024/04/29/world-news/astrazeneca-cops-to-rare-deadly-side-effect-of-covid-jab-as-lawsuits-mount/"><em>New York Post</em>.</a></p> <p>AstraZeneca, which is contesting the claims, acknowledged in a February legal document that its vaccine can “in very rare cases,” cause the clotting condition, while also acknowledging that the potential complication was listed as a side effect of the vaccine since its release.</p> <p>So far, 51 cases have been filed in London’s High Court, estimated to be worth around $190 million (GBP100 million) total, according to the UK newspaper<a title="www.telegraph.co.uk" href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/04/28/astrazeneca-admits-covid-vaccine-causes-rare-side-effect/"> <em>The Telegraph</em></a>.</p> <p>However, thanks to a deal struck between AstraZeneca and the UK government during the worst of the pandemic, the drugmaker has been pre-emptively indemnified against future lawsuits – which means any successful claims for payouts will be born by taxpayers.</p> <p>One of the claimants is father-of-two Jamie Scott, who was left with a permanent brain injury after suffering a clot following receiving the vaccine in April 2021. </p> <p>His wife, Kate, told <a title="www.telegraph.co.uk" href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/04/28/astrazeneca-admits-covid-vaccine-causes-rare-side-effect/"><em>The Telegraph</em> </a>she’s hopeful the company’s admission will accelerate the outcome of their case.</p> <p>“We need an apology, fair compensation for our family and other families who have been affected. We have the truth on our side, and we are not going to give up.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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There are new flu vaccines on offer for 2024. Should I get one? What do I need to know?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/allen-cheng-94997">Allen Cheng</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Influenza is a common respiratory infection. Although most cases are relatively mild, flu can cause more severe illness in young children and older people.</p> <p>Influenza virtually <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33243355/">disappeared</a> from Australia during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic when public health restrictions reduced contact between people. Since 2022, it has returned to a seasonal pattern, although the flu season has started and peaked a few months earlier than before 2020.</p> <p>It’s difficult to predict the intensity of the flu season at this point in the year, but we can sometimes get clues from the northern hemisphere. There, the season <a href="https://www.who.int/tools/flunet">started</a> <a href="https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/fluview/flu_by_age_virus.html">earlier</a> than usual for the third year running (peaking in early January rather than late February/March), with a similar number of reported cases and hospitalisations to the previous year.</p> <p>Influenza vaccines are recommended annually, but there are now an increasing number of different vaccine types. Here’s what to know about this year’s shots, available from <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine">this month</a>.</p> <h2>What goes into a flu vaccine?</h2> <p>Like other vaccines, influenza vaccines work by “training” the immune system on a harmless component of the influenza virus (known as an antigen), so it can respond appropriately when the body encounters the real virus.</p> <p>Influenza strains are constantly changing due to genetic mutation, with the pace of genetic change <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10421855">much higher</a> than for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID). The strains that go into the vaccine are <a href="https://www.who.int/teams/global-influenza-programme/vaccines/who-recommendations">reviewed</a> twice each year by the World Health Organization (WHO), which selects vaccine strains to match the next season’s predicted circulating strains.</p> <p>All current influenza vaccines in <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/publication/meeting-statements/aivc-recommendations-composition-influenza-vaccines-australia-2024">Australia</a> contain four different strains (known as quadrivalent vaccines). One of the strains appeared to <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2314801">disappear</a> during the COVID pandemic, and the WHO has recently <a href="https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/influenza/who-influenza-recommendations/vcm-southern-hemisphere-recommendation-2024/202309_qanda_recommendation.pdf?sfvrsn=7a6906d1_5">recommended</a> dropping this strain from the vaccine. It’s expected trivalent (three strain) vaccines will become available in the near future.</p> <h2>What’s different about new flu vaccines?</h2> <p>There are eight brands of flu vaccines <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/atagi-statement-on-the-administration-of-seasonal-influenza-vaccines-in-2024?language=en">available</a> in Australia in 2024. These include egg-based vaccines (Vaxigrip Tetra, Fluarix Tetra, Afluria Quad, FluQuadri and Influvac Tetra), cell-based vaccines (Flucelvax Quad), adjuvanted vaccines (Fluad Quad) and high-dose vaccines (Fluzone High-Dose Quad).</p> <p>Until recently, the process of manufacturing flu vaccines has remained similar. Since the development of the influenza vaccine in the <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/history-of-vaccination/history-of-influenza-vaccination">1940s</a>, influenza viruses were grown in chicken eggs, then extracted, inactivated, purified and processed to make up the egg-based vaccines that are still used widely.</p> <p>However, there have been several enhancements to influenza vaccines in recent years.</p> <p>Older people’s immune systems tend not to respond as strongly to vaccines. In some flu vaccines, adjuvants (components that stimulate the immune system) are included with the influenza antigens. For example, an adjuvant is used in the Fluad Quad vaccine, recommended for over 65s. Studies <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2021-02/Adjuvanted%20influenza%20vaccine%20vs%20standard%20dose%20influenza%20vaccine%20SoF%20EP%20E2D%20tables_26%20Feb%202021_Final.pdf">suggest</a> adjuvanted influenza vaccines are slightly better than standard egg-based vaccines without adjuvant in older people.</p> <p>An alternative approach to improving the immune response is to use higher doses of the vaccine strains. An example is Fluzone High-Dose Quad – another option for older adults – which contains the equivalent of four doses of a standard influenza vaccine. Studies <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2022-05/HD%20vs%20sIV%20SoF%20EP%20E2D_March%202022_Final.pdf">suggest</a> the high dose vaccine is better than the standard dose vaccine (without an adjuvant) in preventing hospitalisation and complications in older people.</p> <p>Other manufacturers have updated the manufacturing process. Cell-based vaccines, such as Flucelvax Quad, use cells instead of eggs in the manufacturing process. Other vaccines that are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/advances.htm">not yet available</a> also use different technologies. In the past, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31151913/">manufacturing issues</a> with egg-based vaccines have reduced their effectiveness. Using an alternative method of production provides some degree of insurance against this in the future.</p> <h2>What should I do this year?</h2> <p>Given indications this year’s flu season may be earlier than usual, it’s probably safest to get your vaccine early. This is particularly <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/atagi-statement-on-the-administration-of-seasonal-influenza-vaccines-in-2024?language=en">important</a> for those at highest risk of severe illness, including older adults (65 years and over), those with chronic medical conditions, young children (six months to five years) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Influenza vaccines are also recommended in pregnancy to protect both the mother and the baby for the first months of life.</p> <p>Influenza vaccines are widely available, including at GP clinics and pharmacies, while many workplaces have occupational programs. For high-risk groups, <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine">four of the vaccines</a> are subsidised by the Australian government through the <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/national-immunisation-program">National Immunisation Program</a>.</p> <p>In older people, a number of vaccines are now recommended: <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2024-03/atagi-statement-on-the-administration-of-covid-19-vaccines-in-2024.pdf">COVID</a> and influenza, as well as one-off courses of <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/06/national-immunisation-program-pneumococcal-vaccination-schedule-from-1-july-2020-clinical-advice-for-vaccination-providers.pdf">pneumococcal</a> and <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/shingles-herpes-zoster-immunisation-service">shingles</a> vaccines. In general, most vaccines can be given in the same visit, but talk to your doctor about which ones you need.</p> <h2>Are there side effects?</h2> <p>All influenza vaccines can <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine">cause</a> a sore arm and sometimes more generalised symptoms such as fever and tiredness. These are expected and reflect the immune system reacting appropriately to the vaccine, and are mostly mild and short-term. These side effects are slightly more common in <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2021-02/Adjuvanted%20influenza%20vaccine%20vs%20standard%20dose%20influenza%20vaccine%20SoF%20EP%20E2D%20tables_26%20Feb%202021_Final.pdf">adjuvanted</a> and <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2022-05/HD%20vs%20sIV%20SoF%20EP%20E2D_March%202022_Final.pdf">high dose</a> vaccines.</p> <p>As with all medications and vaccines, allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis can occur after the flu vaccine. All vaccine providers are trained to recognise and respond to anaphylaxis. People with egg allergies should discuss this with their doctor, but in general, <a href="https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/egg-allergy-flu-vaccine">studies suggest</a> they can safely receive any (including egg-based) influenza vaccines.</p> <p>Serious side effects from the influenza vaccine, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological complication, are very rare (one case per million people vaccinated). They are <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23810252/">thought</a> to be less common after influenza vaccination than after infection with influenza.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/226623/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/allen-cheng-94997">Allen Cheng</a>, Professor of Infectious Diseases, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/there-are-new-flu-vaccines-on-offer-for-2024-should-i-get-one-what-do-i-need-to-know-226623">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Dad awarded compensation after developing heart issue from mandatory vaccine

<p>An Adelaide father is set to receive hefty compensation after a mandatory Covid jab left him with a debilitating health condition. </p> <p>In 2021 at the height of the Covid pandemic in Australia, 44-year-old Daniel Shepherd was required to receive tow Covid vaccinations, due to his hands on role at an aged care facility. </p> <p>After having two Pfizer vaccines, he suffered some adverse effects, but dismissed his symptoms as nothing serious. </p> <p>In the months after, Shepherd was required to have a booster shot when he began a new job with the Department of Child Protection in October of the same year. </p> <p>In January 2022, the father was told if we wanted to keep his job as a health and childcare worker, he needed to have the jab. </p> <p>After eventually agreeing to the booster, Shepherd has his third dose of Pfizer in late February 2022, but began suffering from chest pains just hours later. </p> <p>"It felt like someone had their knee right on my chest," he told <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/adelaide-news-covid-vaccine-man-to-get-government-compensation-after-developing-heart-condition/55cc0fbf-4631-4cf0-b395-8c8b6c71a43f" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener"><em>9News</em>.</a></p> <p>The pain kept getting worse until he was rushed to hospital a few weeks later when he thought he was having a heart attack.</p> <p>There he was diagnosed with post-vaccine pericarditis: an inflammation of the membrane around the heart.</p> <p>His illness meant he was unable to work full time, and also meant he was unable to keep up with his young son.</p> <p>"Even today with just mild exertion [I get] chest pains and then it's followed by fatigue, like severe fatigue," Shepard said.</p> <p>"It's heartbreaking to have to say 'sorry buddy, daddy's tired'." </p> <p>Mr Shepherd decided to take legal action after he was unable to work, launching a workers compensation claim against the government.</p> <p>In a landmark ruling in mid-January, the South Australian Employment Tribunal agreed to pay weekly compensation and medical bills to Shepherd.</p> <p>Doctors were unanimous in his case that the vaccine was the cause of his inability to work, but the government argued emergency directions that were in place at the time trumped the laws around workplace injury.</p> <p>Pericarditis is meant to clear within a few months, but Shepherd's symptoms have plagued him for almost two years.</p> <p><em>Image credits: 9News</em></p>

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Millions of high-risk Australians aren’t getting vaccinated. A policy reset could save lives

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-breadon-1348098">Peter Breadon</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ingrid-burfurd-1295906">Ingrid Burfurd</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a></em></p> <p>Each year, vaccines prevent thousands of deaths and hospitalisations in Australia.</p> <p>But millions of high-risk older Australians <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/a-fair-shot-ensuring-all-australians-can-get-the-vaccines-they-need/">aren’t getting</a> recommended vaccinations against COVID, the flu, pneumococcal disease and shingles.</p> <p>Some people are more likely to miss out, such as migrant communities and those in rural areas and poorer suburbs.</p> <p>As our new <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/a-fair-shot-ensuring-all-australians-can-get-the-vaccines-they-need/">Grattan report shows</a>, a policy reset to encourage more Australians to get vaccinated could save lives and help ease the pressure on our struggling hospitals.</p> <h2>Adult vaccines reduce the risk of serious illness</h2> <p>Vaccines slash the risk of <a href="https://www.ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2021-03/Influenza-fact-sheet_31%20March%202021_Final.pdf">hospitalisation</a> and serious illness, <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/recent-covid-19-vaccination-highly-effective-against-death-caused-sars-cov-2-infection-older">often by more than half</a>.</p> <p>COVID has already caused more than <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/provisional-mortality-statistics/latest-release">3,000 deaths in Australia this year</a>. On average, the flu kills about <a href="https://www.doherty.edu.au/news-events/news/statement-on-the-doherty-institute-modelling">600 people a year</a>, although a bad flu season, like 2017, can mean <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0%7E2017%7EMain%20Features%7EAustralia's%20leading%20causes%20of%20death,%202017%7E2">several thousand deaths</a>. And pneumococcal disease may also kill <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/49809836-8ead-4da5-81c4-352fa64df75b/aihw-phe-263.pdf?inline=true">hundreds</a> of people a year. Shingles is rarely fatal, but can be extremely painful and cause <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/shingles#complications">long-term nerve damage</a>.</p> <p>Even before COVID, vaccine-preventable diseases caused tens of thousands of potentially preventable hospitalisations each year – more than <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/primary-health-care/disparities-in-potentially-preventable-hospitalisa/data">80,000 in 2018</a>.</p> <p>Vaccines offered in Australia have been tested for safety and efficacy and have been found to be <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/about-immunisation/vaccine-safety#:%7E:text=serious%20side%20effects.-,Vaccine%20safety%20monitoring,approved%20for%20use%20in%20Australia.">very safe</a> for people who are <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/when-to-get-vaccinated/national-immunisation-program-schedule">recommended to get them</a>.</p> <h2>Too many high-risk people are missing out</h2> <p>Our <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/roundabouts-overpasses-carparks-hauling-the-federal-government-back-to-its-proper-role-in-transport-projects">report</a> shows that before winter this year, only 60% of high-risk Australians were vaccinated against the flu.</p> <p>Only 38% had a COVID vaccination in the last six months. Compared to a year earlier, two million more high-risk people went into winter without a recent COVID vaccination.</p> <p>Vaccination rates have fallen further since. Just over one-quarter (<a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-11/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-update-10-november-2023.pdf">27%</a>) of people over 75 have been vaccinated in the last six months. That leaves more than 1.3 million without a recent COVID vaccination.</p> <p>Uptake is also low for other vaccines. Among Australians in their 70s, <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2022-12/Coverage%20report%202021%20SUMMARY%20FINAL.pdf">less than half</a> are vaccinated against shingles and only one in five are vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.</p> <p>These vaccination rates aren’t just low – they’re also unfair. The likelihood that someone is vaccinated changes depending on where they live, where they were born, what language they speak at home, and how much they earn.</p> <p>For example, at the start of winter this year, the COVID vaccination rate for high-risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults was only 25%. This makes them about one-third less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID in the previous six months, compared to the average high-risk Australian.</p> <p>For more than 750,000 high-risk adults who do not speak English at home, the COVID vaccination rate is below 20% – about half the level of the average high-risk adult.</p> <p>Within this group, 250,000 adults aren’t proficient in English. They were 58% less likely to be vaccinated for COVID in the previous six months, compared to the average high-risk person.</p> <p>High-risk adults who speak English at home have a flu vaccination rate of 62%. But for people from 29 other language groups, who aren’t proficient in English, the rate is less than 31%. These 39,000 people have half the vaccination rate of people who speak English at home.</p> <p>These vaccination gaps contribute to the differences in people’s health. Australians born overseas don’t just have much lower rates of COVID vaccination, they also have much higher rates of death from COVID.</p> <p>Where people live also affects vaccination rates. High-risk people living in remote and very remote areas are less likely to be vaccinated, and even within capital cities there are big differences between different areas.</p> <h2>We need to set ambitious targets</h2> <p>Australia needs a vaccination reset. A new National Vaccination Agreement between the federal and state governments should include ambitious but achievable targets for adult vaccines.</p> <p>This can build on the success of targets for childhood and adolescent vaccination, setting targets for overall uptake and for communities that are falling behind.</p> <p>The federal government should ask the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to advise on vaccination targets for COVID, flu, pneumococcal and shingles for all high-risk older adults.</p> <h2>Different solutions for different barriers</h2> <p>Barriers to vaccination range from the trivial to the profound. A new national vaccination strategy needs to dismantle high and low barriers alike.</p> <p>First, to increase overall uptake, vaccination should be easier, and easier to understand.</p> <p>The federal government should introduce vaccination “surges”, especially in the lead-up to winter, as <a href="https://www.who.int/europe/news/item/09-10-2023-vulnerable--vaccinate.-protecting-the-unprotected-from-covid-19-and-influenza">countries in Europe</a> do.</p> <p>During surges, high-risk people should be able to get vaccinated even if they have had a recent infection or injection. This will make the rules simpler and make vaccination in aged care easier.</p> <p>Surges should be reinforced with advertising explaining who should get vaccinated and why. High-risk people should get SMS reminders.</p> <p>Second, targeted policies are needed for the many people who are happy to use mainstream primary care services, but who don’t get vaccinated – for example, due to <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-can-governments-communicate-with-multicultural-australians-about-covid-vaccines-its-not-as-simple-as-having-a-poster-in-their-language-156097">language barriers</a>, or living in <a href="https://theconversation.com/over-half-of-eligible-aged-care-residents-are-yet-to-receive-their-covid-booster-and-winter-is-coming-205403">aged care</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/phn/what-PHNs-are">Primary Health Networks</a> should get funding to coordinate initiatives such as vaccination events in aged care and disability care homes, workforce training to support culturally appropriate care, and provision of interpreters.</p> <p>Third, tailored programs are needed to reach <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/health-promotion">people who are not comfortable or able to access mainstream health care</a>, who have the most complex barriers to vaccination – for example, distrust of the health system or poverty.</p> <p>These communities are all very different, so one-size-fits-all programs don’t work. The pandemic showed that vaccination programs can succeed when they are designed and delivered with the communities they are trying to reach. Examples are “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36366401/">community champions</a>” who challenge misinformation, or health services organising vaccination events where communities work, gather or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/aug/11/hundreds-queue-for-hours-and-some-camp-overnight-at-pop-up-vaccine-clinic-in-sydneys-lakemba">worship</a>.</p> <p>These programs should get ongoing funding, but also be accountable for achieving results.</p> <p>Adult vaccines are the missing piece in Australia’s whole-of-life vaccination strategy. For the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of our community, we need to close the vaccination gap. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217915/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-breadon-1348098"><em>Peter Breadon</em></a><em>, Program Director, Health and Aged Care, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ingrid-burfurd-1295906">Ingrid Burfurd</a>, Senior Associate, Health Program, Grattan Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/millions-of-high-risk-australians-arent-getting-vaccinated-a-policy-reset-could-save-lives-217915">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What are the new COVID booster vaccines? Can I get one? Do they work? Are they safe?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-griffin-1129798">Paul Griffin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>As the COVID virus continues to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36680207/">evolve</a>, so does our vaccine response. From <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-mark-butler-mp/media/new-covid-19-vaccines-available-to-target-current-variants?language=en">December 11</a>, Australians will have access to <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-recommendations-on-use-of-the-moderna-and-pfizer-monovalent-omicron-xbb15-covid-19-vaccines?language=en">new vaccines</a> that offer better protection.</p> <p>These “monovalent” booster vaccines are expected to be a <a href="https://theconversation.com/cdc-greenlights-two-updated-covid-19-vaccines-but-how-will-they-fare-against-the-latest-variants-5-questions-answered-213341">better match</a> for currently circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.</p> <p>Pfizer’s monovalent vaccine will be <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-mark-butler-mp/media/new-covid-19-vaccines-available-to-target-current-variants?language=en">available</a> to eligible people aged five years and older. The Moderna monovalent vaccine can be used for those aged 12 years and older.</p> <p>Who is eligible for these new boosters? How do they differ from earlier ones? Do they work? Are they safe?</p> <h2>Who’s eligible for the new boosters?</h2> <p>The federal government has accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) recommendation to use the new vaccines, after Australia’s regulator <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/products/covid-19/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-vaccines-regulatory-status">approved their use last month</a>. However, vaccine eligibility has remained the same since September.</p> <p>ATAGI <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-recommendations-on-use-of-the-moderna-and-pfizer-monovalent-omicron-xbb15-covid-19-vaccines?language=en">recommends</a> Australians aged over 75 get vaccinated if it has been six months or more since their last dose.</p> <p>People aged 65 to 74 are recommended to have a 2023 booster if they haven’t already had one.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=315&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=315&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=315&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=396&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=396&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560533/original/file-20231120-21-4igdnx.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=396&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">For people without risk factors.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-10/atagi-recommended-covid-19-vaccine-doses.pdf">Health.gov.au</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Adults aged 18 to 64 <em>with</em> underlying risk factors that increase their risk of severe COVID are also recommended to have a 2023 booster if they haven’t had one yet. And if they’ve already had a 2023 booster, they can consider an additional dose.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=311&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=311&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=311&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=391&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=391&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/560532/original/file-20231120-26-70jfyr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=391&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Advice for people with risk factors.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-10/atagi-recommended-covid-19-vaccine-doses.pdf">Health.gov.au</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>For adults aged 18 to 64 <em>without</em> underlying risk factors who have already received a 2023 booster, an additional dose isn’t recommended. But if you’re aged 18 to 64 and haven’t had a booster in 2023, you can consider an additional dose.</p> <p>Additional doses aren’t recommended for children <em>without</em> underlying conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID. A primary course is not recommended for children aged six months to five years <em>without</em> additional risk factors.</p> <h2>Monovalent, bivalent? What’s the difference?</h2> <p><strong>From monovalent</strong></p> <p>The initial COVID vaccines were “monovalent”. They had one target – the original viral strain.</p> <p>But as the virus mutated, we assigned new letters of the Greek alphabet to each variant. This brings us to Omicron. With this significant change, we saw “immune evasion”. The virus had changed so much the original vaccines didn’t provide sufficient immunity.</p> <p><strong>To bivalent</strong></p> <p>So vaccines were updated to target an early Omicron subvariant, BA.1, plus the original ancestral strain. With two targets, these were the first of the “bivalent” vaccines, which were approved in Australia <a href="https://theconversation.com/omicron-specific-vaccines-may-give-slightly-better-covid-protection-but-getting-boosted-promptly-is-the-best-bet-190736">in 2022</a>.</p> <p>Omicron continued to evolve, leading to more “immune escape”, contributing to repeated waves of transmission.</p> <p>The vaccines were updated again in <a href="https://theconversation.com/havent-had-covid-or-a-vaccine-dose-in-the-past-six-months-consider-getting-a-booster-199096">early 2023</a>. These newer bivalent vaccines target two strains – the ancestral strain plus the subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.</p> <p><strong>Back to monovalent</strong></p> <p>Further changes in the virus have meant our boosters needed to be updated again. This takes us to the recent announcement.</p> <p>This time the booster targets another subvariant of Omicron known as XBB.1.5 (sometimes known as <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-kraken-subvariant-xbb-1-5-sounds-scary-but-behind-the-headlines-are-clues-to-where-covids-heading-198158">Kraken</a>).</p> <p>This vaccine is monovalent once more, meaning it has only one target. The target against the original viral strain has been removed.</p> <p>According to advice given to the World Health Organization <a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/18-05-2023-statement-on-the-antigen-composition-of-covid-19-vaccines">in May</a>, this is largely because immunity to this original strain is no longer required (it’s no longer infecting humans). Raising immunity to the original strain may also hamper the immune response to the newer component, but we’re not sure if this is occurring or how important this is.</p> <p>The United States <a href="https://theconversation.com/cdc-greenlights-two-updated-covid-19-vaccines-but-how-will-they-fare-against-the-latest-variants-5-questions-answered-213341">approved</a> XBB.1.5-specific vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna in <a href="https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-takes-action-updated-mrna-covid-19-vaccines-better-protect-against-currently-circulating">mid-September</a>. These updated vaccines have also been <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-10/auspar-spikevax-xbb.1.5-231012.pdf">approved in</a> places including Europe, Canada, Japan and Singapore.</p> <p>In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved them <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/products/covid-19/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-vaccines-regulatory-status">in October</a>.</p> <h2>Do these newer vaccines work?</h2> <p>Evidence for the efficacy of these new monovalent vaccines comes from the results of research <a href="https://www.ebs.tga.gov.au/ebs/picmi/picmirepository.nsf/pdf?OpenAgent=&amp;id=CP-2023-PI-02409-1&amp;d=20231117172310101">Pfizer</a> and <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/auspar/auspar-spikevax-xbb15">Moderna</a> submitted to the TGA.</p> <p>Evidence also comes from a <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.08.22.23293434v2">preprint</a> (preliminary research available online that has yet to be independently reviewed) and an update Pfizer <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/meetings/downloads/slides-2023-09-12/10-COVID-Modjarrad-508.pdf">presented</a> to the US Centers for Disease Control.</p> <p>Taken together, the available evidence shows the updated vaccines produce good levels of antibodies in <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/auspar/auspar-spikevax-xbb15">laboratory studies</a>, <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.08.22.23293434v2">in humans</a> and <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/auspar/auspar-spikevax-xbb15">mice</a> when compared to previous vaccines and when looking at multiple emerging variants, including EG.5 (sometimes known as <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-who-has-declared-eris-a-variant-of-interest-how-is-it-different-from-other-omicron-variants-211276">Eris</a>). This variant is the one causing high numbers of cases around the world currently, including in Australia. It is very similar to the XBB version contained in the updated booster.</p> <p>The updated vaccines should also cover <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-evasive-and-transmissible-is-the-newest-omicron-offshoot-ba-2-86-that-causes-covid-19-4-questions-answered-212453">BA.2.86 or Pirola</a>, according to <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-10/auspar-spikevax-xbb.1.5-231012.pdf">early results</a> from clinical trials and the US <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/respiratory-viruses/whats-new/covid-19-variant.html">Centers for Disease Control</a>. This variant is responsible for a rapidly increasing proportion of cases, with case numbers growing <a href="https://twitter.com/BigBadDenis/status/1725310295596560662?s=19">in Australia</a>.</p> <p>It’s clear the virus is going to continue to evolve. So performance of these vaccines against new variants will continue to be closely monitored.</p> <h2>Are they safe?</h2> <p>The <a href="https://www.ebs.tga.gov.au/ebs/picmi/picmirepository.nsf/pdf?OpenAgent=&amp;id=CP-2023-PI-02409-1&amp;d=20231117172310101">safety</a> of the updated vaccines has also been shown to be similar to previous versions. Studies <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.08.22.23293434v2">comparing them</a> found no significant difference in terms of the adverse events reported.</p> <p>Given the availability of the updated vaccines, some countries have removed their approval for earlier versions. This is because newer versions are a closer match to currently circulating strains, rather than any safety issue with the older vaccines.</p> <h2>What happens next?</h2> <p>The availability of updated vaccines is a welcome development, however this is not the end of the story. We need to make sure eligible people get vaccinated.</p> <p>We also need to acknowledge that vaccination should form part of a comprehensive strategy to limit the impact of COVID from now on. That includes measures such as mask wearing, social distancing, focusing on ventilation and air quality, and to a lesser degree hand hygiene. Rapidly accessing antivirals if eligible is also still important, as is keeping away from others if you are infected.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217804/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-griffin-1129798"><em>Paul Griffin</em></a><em>, Professor, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-are-the-new-covid-booster-vaccines-can-i-get-one-do-they-work-are-they-safe-217804">original article</a>.</em></p>

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I think I have the flu. Should I ask my GP for antivirals?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lara-herrero-1166059">Lara Herrero</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/wesley-freppel-1408971">Wesley Freppel</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yong-qian-koo-1457640">Yong Qian Koo</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>If you test positive for COVID and you’re eligible for antivirals, you’ll likely ask your GP for a script to protect you from severe disease.</p> <p><a href="https://healthdispatch.com.au/news/immunisation-coalition-urging-people-with-flu-like-symptoms-to-g">Antivirals</a> are also available to fight influenza viruses, via a doctor’s prescription. But they have a mixed history, with their benefits at times <a href="https://theconversation.com/controversies-in-medicine-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-challenge-to-tamiflu-38287">overstated</a>.</p> <p>It can be difficult to get an appointment to see your GP. So when should you make the effort to see a GP for a prescription for influenza antivirals? And how effective are they?</p> <h2>What exactly is influenza?</h2> <p>The flu is primarily a viral infection of the respiratory system that can spread through sneezing, coughing, or touching contaminated objects then touching your nose or mouth.</p> <p>Common symptoms include headache, sore throat, fever, runny or blocked nose and body aches that last a week or more.</p> <p>Influenza is actually a group of viruses, divided into several <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/viruses/types.htm#:%7E:text=There%20are%20four%20types%20of,global%20epidemics%20of%20flu%20disease,%20https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/background-epidemiology.htm">sub-groups</a>. Flu A and B are the <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/aisr?language=en,%20https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/australian-influenza-surveillance-reports-2023?language=en">most common groups</a> that circulate in humans.</p> <h2>What are flu antivirals?</h2> <p>Influenza antivirals, target specific parts of the viral life cycle, which prevents the virus replicating and spreading.</p> <p>Most flu antivirals <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra050740">target</a> neuraminidase, an important enzyme the virus uses to release itself from cells.</p> <p>On the other hand, COVID antivirals work by inhibiting other parts of the viral life cycle involved in the <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/news/media-releases/tga-provisionally-approves-two-oral-covid-19-treatments-molnupiravir-lagevrio-and-nirmatrelvir-ritonavir-paxlovid">virus replicating itself</a>.</p> <p>Three influenza antivirals are <a href="https://australianprescriber.tg.org.au/articles/influenza-overview-on-prevention-and-therapy.html#r20">used in Australia</a>. Relenza (zanamivir) is an inhaled powder and Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is a capsule; both are five-day treatments. Rapivab (peramivir) is a single injection.</p> <p>These antivirals may also come with <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/antivirals/summary-clinicians.htm">side effects</a>, such as a headache, vomiting, cough, or <a href="https://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/resources/antiviral-treatments-for-influenza/">fever</a>.</p> <p>Tamiflu and Relenza generally cost A$40-50 in Australia, plus the cost of the consultation fee with your doctor, if applicable.</p> <h2>How effective are antivirals for the flu?</h2> <p>Antivirals have the greatest effect if started 24-72 hours after symptoms. This is to prevent the virus from reaching <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/5/3018">high levels in the body</a>.</p> <p>Among healthy adults, if Relenza or Tamiflu are started within 48 hours from your first symptoms, they can <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008965.pub4/full">reduce the duration</a> of symptoms such as cough, blocked nose, sore throat, fatigue, headache, muscle pain and fever by just under a day.</p> <p>For people who have developed severe flu symptoms or who have existing health conditions such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), antivirals that start later (but still before day five of symptoms) can still reduce the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/52/4/457/378776?login=true">severity of infection</a> and reduce the <a href="https://thorax.bmj.com/content/thoraxjnl/65/6/510.full.pdf?frbrVersion=3">chance of</a> <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/215903">hospitalisation</a> and <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jac/article/72/11/2990/4091484?login=false">death</a>.</p> <p>In a study from the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic in the United States, treatment with antivirals (Tamiflu and Relenza) <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358088/">reduced</a> the chance of needing to be hospitalised. Around 60% of hospitalisations prevented were among 18-64 years olds, around 20% in children 0-17 years, and 20% in adults aged over 65.</p> <p>The research is less clear about whether antivirals prevent the development of flu complications such as secondary bacterial pneumonia. They might, but so far the data aren’t clear.</p> <h2>Are flu antivirals becoming less effective?</h2> <p>Antiviral resistance to Tamiflu has been <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10096-020-03840-9">reported</a> around the world, mostly in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7223162/">immunocompromised people</a>, as they <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10096-020-03840-9">have</a> a weakened immune system that allows higher viral loads and prolonged viral shedding.</p> <p>The impact of the antiviral resistance is unclear but there is evidence indicating resistant strains can uphold their ability to replicate effectively and spread. So far it’s not clear if these stains cause more severe disease.</p> <p>However, government agencies and surveillance programs are constantly monitoring the spread of antiviral resistance. Currently there is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/antiviralresistance.htm">minimal concern</a> for strains that are resistant to Tamiflu or Relenza.</p> <h2>Antivirals can also prevent the flu if you’ve been exposed</h2> <p>Tamiflu and Relenza can also be used to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/irv.12046">prevent flu infections</a>, if we’re exposed to the virus or come into contact with infected people.</p> <p>Some studies suggest Tamiflu and Relenza can <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/326/7401/1235.long">reduce the chance of developing symptomatic influenza</a> by 70-90%.</p> <p>Many health agencies around the world <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8165743/">recommend</a> “prophylactic” treatment for high-risk patients in hospitals or age care setting when people have been in contact with others infected with influenza.</p> <h2>So who should talk to their GP about a prescription?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/racf-antiviral-treatments-and-prophylaxis.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20Australian%20Therapeutic%20Guidelines*%20recommends,of%20severe%20disease%20from%20influenza.&amp;text=people%20with%20chronic%20conditions%20including,heart%20disease">Australian guidelines recommend</a> doctors offer antivirals to people with influenza who have severe disease or complications.</p> <p>Doctors can also consider treatment for people at higher risk of developing severe disease from influenza. This includes:</p> <ul> <li>adults aged 65 years or older</li> <li>pregnant women</li> <li>people with certain chronic conditions (heart disease, Down syndrome, obesity, chronic respiratory conditions, severe neurological conditions)</li> <li>people with compromised immunity</li> <li>Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people</li> <li>children aged five years or younger</li> <li>residents of long-term residential facilities</li> <li>homeless people.</li> </ul> <p>Doctors can prescribe antivirals for the prevention of influenza <a href="https://australianprescriber.tg.org.au/articles/influenza-overview-on-prevention-and-therapy.html#r20">in</a> vulnerable people who have been exposed to the virus.</p> <p>Antiviral treatment also can be <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/antivirals/summary-clinicians.htm#:%7E:text=Antiviral%20treatment%20also%20can%20be,48%20hours%20of%20illness%20onset">considered</a> for otherwise healthy symptomatic patients who have confirmed or suspected influenza, if they can start treatment within 48 hours of developing symptoms.</p> <p>In some instances a doctors can make a clinical diagnosis of influenza based on the symptoms and known close flu positive contacts of the patient. However, it is preferred to have flu diagnosed by one of the approved diagnostic tests, such as a <a href="https://24-7medcare.com.au/influenza/australian-gp-influenza-2023-guide/">rapid antigen test</a> (RAT) or the more accurate <a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/influenza_factsheet.aspx">PCR test</a>, similar to what is perfomed for COVID. There are also now combo tests that can <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/news/media-releases/first-combination-covid-19-and-influenza-self-tests-approved-australia">distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus</a>.</p> <p>Remember, the flu can cause <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-23/flu-season-hitting-children-hard-antivirals-may-help/102633722">severe illness or death</a>, particularly among people from the high-risk groups. So if you think you might have the flu, wear a mask and stay away to avoid spreading the virus to others. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210457/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lara-herrero-1166059">Lara Herrero</a>, Research Leader in Virology and Infectious Disease, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/wesley-freppel-1408971">Wesley Freppel</a>, Research Fellow, Institute for Glycomics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yong-qian-koo-1457640">Yong Qian Koo</a>, , <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image </em><em>credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/i-think-i-have-the-flu-should-i-ask-my-gp-for-antivirals-210457">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Taking an antidepressant? Mixing it with other medicines – including some cold and flu treatments – can be dangerous

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/treasure-mcguire-135225">Treasure McGuire</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>In the depths of winter we are more at risk of succumbing to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7522168/">viral respiratory infections</a> – from annoying sore throat, common cold and sinusitis, to the current resurgence of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID.</p> <p>Symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection range in severity. They can include fever, chills, muscle or body aches, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, earache, headache, and fatigue. Most antibiotics target bacteria so are <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32495003/">not effective</a> for viral infections. Many people seek relief with over-the-counter medicines.</p> <p>While evidence varies, guidelines suggest medicines taken by mouth (such as cough syrups or cold and flu tablets) have a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25420096/">limited but potentially positive</a> short-term role for managing upper respiratory infection symptoms in adults and children older than 12. These include:</p> <ul> <li>paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain or fever</li> <li>decongestants such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine</li> <li>expectorants and mucolytics to thin and clear mucus from upper airways</li> <li>dry cough suppressants such as dextromethorphan</li> <li>sedating or non-sedating antihistamines for runny noses or watery eyes.</li> </ul> <p>But what if you have been prescribed an antidepressant? What do you need to know before going to the pharmacy for respiratory relief?</p> <h2>Avoiding harm</h2> <p>An audit of more than 5,000 cough-and-cold consumer enquiries to an Australian national medicine call centre found questions frequently related to drug-drug interactions (29%). An 18-month analysis showed 20% of calls <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26590496/">concerned</a> potentially significant interactions, particularly with antidepressants.</p> <p>Australia remains in the “<a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/mental-health/topic-areas/mental-health-%20prescriptions#Prescriptionsbytype">top ten</a>” antidepressant users in the <a href="https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=HEALTH_PHMC">OECD</a>. More than <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/mental-health/topic-areas/mental-health-prescriptions">32 million</a> antidepressant prescriptions are dispensed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme each year.</p> <p>Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to manage symptoms of anxiety or depression but are also used in chronic pain and incontinence. They are classified primarily by how they affect chemical messengers in the nervous system.</p> <p>These classes are:</p> <ul> <li><strong>selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)</strong> such as fluoxetine, escitalopram, paroxetine and sertraline</li> <li><strong>serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)</strong> such as desvenlafaxine, duloxetine and venlafaxine</li> <li><strong>tricyclic antidepressants (TCA)</strong> such as amitriptyline, doxepin and imipramine</li> <li><strong>monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI)</strong> such as tranylcypromine</li> <li><strong>atypical medicines</strong> such as agomelatine, mianserin, mirtazapine, moclobemide, reboxetine and vortioxetine</li> <li><strong>complementary medicines</strong> including St John’s wort, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) and L-tryptophan</li> </ul> <p>Medicines within the same class of antidepressants have similar actions and side-effect profiles. But the molecular differences of individual antidepressants mean they may have different interactions with medicines taken at the same time.</p> <h2>Types of drug interactions</h2> <p>Drug interactions can be:</p> <ul> <li><strong>pharmacokinetic</strong> – what the body does to a drug as it moves into, through and out of the body. When drugs are taken together, one may affect the absorption, distribution, metabolism or elimination of the other</li> <li><strong>pharmacodynamic</strong> – what a drug does to the body. When drugs are taken together, one may affect the action of the other. Two drugs that independently cause sedation, for example, may result in excessive drowsiness if taken together.</li> </ul> <p>There are many <a href="https://wchh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/pnp.429">potential interactions</a> between medications and antidepressants. These include interactions between over-the-counter medicines for upper respiratory symptoms and antidepressants, especially those taken orally.</p> <p>Concentrations of nasal sprays or inhaled medicines are generally lower in the blood stream. That means they are less likely to interact with other medicines.</p> <h2>What to watch for</h2> <p>It’s important to get advice from a pharmacist before taking any medications on top of your antidepressant.</p> <p>Two symptoms antidepressant users should monitor for shortly after commencing a cough or cold medicine are central nervous system effects (irritability, insomnia or drowsiness) and effects on blood pressure.</p> <p>For example, taking a selective SSRI antidepressant and an oral decongestant (such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine) can cause irritability, insomnia and affect blood pressure.</p> <p>Serotonin is a potent chemical compound produced naturally for brain and nerve function that can also constrict blood vessels. Medicines that affect serotonin are common and include most antidepressant classes, but also decongestants, dextromethorphan, St John’s wort, L-tryptophan, antimigraine agents, diet pills and amphetamines.</p> <p><a href="https://reference.medscape.com/drug-interactionchecker">Combining drugs</a> such as antidepressants and decongestants that both elevate serotonin levels can cause irritability, headache, insomnia, diarrhoea and blood pressure effects – usually increased blood pressure. But some people experience orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure on standing up) and dizziness.</p> <p>For example, taking both a serotonin and SNRI antidepressant and dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) can add up to high serotonin levels. This can also occur with a combination of the complementary medicine St John’s Wort and an oral decongestant.</p> <p>Where serotonin levels are too high, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15666281/">severe symptoms</a> such as confusion, muscle rigidity, fever, seizures and even death have been reported. Such symptoms are rare but if you notice any of these you should stop taking the cold and flu medication straight away and seek medical attention.</p> <h2>Ways to avoid antidepressant drug interactions</h2> <p>There are a few things we can do to prevent potentially dangerous interactions between antidepressants and cold and flu treatments.</p> <p><strong>1. Better information</strong></p> <p>Firstly, there should be more targeted, consumer-friendly, <a href="https://www.webmd.com/interaction-checker/default.htm">online drug interaction information</a> available for antidepressant users.</p> <p><strong>2. Prevent the spread of viral infections as much as possible</strong></p> <p>Use the non-drug strategies that have worked well for COVID: regular hand washing, good personal hygiene, social distancing, and facemasks. Ensure adults and children are up to date with immunisations.</p> <p><strong>3. Avoid potential drug interactions with strategies to safely manage symptoms</strong></p> <p>Consult your pharmacist for strategies most appropriate for you and only use cold and flu medications while symptoms persist:</p> <ul> <li>treat muscle aches, pain, or a raised temperature with analgesics such as paracetamol or ibuprofen</li> <li>relieve congestion with a nasal spray decongestant</li> <li>clear mucus from upper airways with expectorants or mucolytics</li> <li>dry up a runny nose or watery eyes with a non-sedating antihistamine.</li> </ul> <p>Avoid over-the-counter cough suppressants for an irritating dry cough. Use a simple alternative such as honey, steam inhalation with a few drops of eucalyptus oil or a non-medicated lozenge instead.</p> <p><strong>4. Ask whether your symptoms could be more than the common cold</strong></p> <p>Could it be influenza or COVID? Seek medical attention if you are concerned or your symptoms are not improving. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208662/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/treasure-mcguire-135225">Treasure McGuire</a>, Assistant Director of Pharmacy, Mater Health SEQ in conjoint appointment as Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Bond University and as Associate Professor (Clinical), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-an-antidepressant-mixing-it-with-other-medicines-including-some-cold-and-flu-treatments-can-be-dangerous-208662">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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What happens in our body when we encounter and fight off a virus like the flu, SARS-CoV-2 or RSV?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lara-herrero-1166059">Lara Herrero</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/wesley-freppel-1408971">Wesley Freppel</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.labcorp.com/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/covid-news-education/covid-19-vs-flu-vs-rsv-how-tell-difference">Respiratory viruses</a> like influenza virus (flu), SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can make us sick by infecting our respiratory system, including the nose, upper airways and lungs.</p> <p>They spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks and can cause death in serious cases.</p> <p>But what happens in our body when we first encounter these viruses? Our immune system uses a number of strategies to fight off viral infections. Let’s look at how it does this.</p> <h2>First line of defence</h2> <p>When we encounter respiratory viruses, the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S193131281600038X?via%3Dihub/">first line of defence</a> is the physical and chemical barriers in our nose, upper airways, and lungs. Barriers like the mucus lining and hair-like structures on the surface of cells, work together to trap and remove viruses before they can reach deeper into our respiratory system.</p> <p>Our defence also includes our behaviours such as coughing or sneezing. When we blow our nose, the mucus, viruses, and any other pathogens that are caught within it are expelled.</p> <p>But sometimes, viruses manage to evade these initial barriers and sneak into our respiratory system. This activates the cells of our innate immune system.</p> <h2>Patrolling for potential invaders</h2> <p>While our acquired immune system develops over time, our innate immune system is present at birth. It generates “non-specific” immunity by identifying what’s foreign. The cells of innate immunity act like a patrol system, searching for any invaders. These innate cells patrol almost every part of our body, from our skin to our nose, lungs and even internal organs.</p> <p>Our respiratory system has different type of innate cells such – as macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer cells – which patrol in our body looking for intruders. If they recognise anything foreign, in this case a virus, they will initiate an attack response.</p> <p>Each cell type plays a slightly different role. Macrophages, for example, will not only engulf and digest viruses (phagocytosis) but also release a cocktail of different molecules (cytokines) that will warn and recruit other cells to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cmi.12580">fight against the danger</a>.</p> <p>In the meantime, natural killer cells, aptly named, attack infected cells, and stop viruses from multiplying and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-021-00558-3">invading our body further</a>.</p> <p>Natural killer cells also promote inflammation, a <a href="https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jir/2018/1467538/">crucial part of the immune response</a>. It helps to recruit more immune cells to the site of infection, enhances blood flow, and increases the permeability of blood vessels, allowing immune cells to reach the infected tissues. At this stage, our immune system is fighting a war against viruses and the result can cause inflammation, fevers, coughs and congestion.</p> <h2>Launching a specific attack</h2> <p>As the innate immune response begins, another branch of the immune system called the adaptive immune system is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21070/">activated</a>.</p> <p>The adaptive immune system is more specific than the innate immune system, and it decides on the correct tools and strategy to fight off the viral invaders. This system plays a vital role in eliminating the virus and providing long-term protection against future infections.</p> <p>Specialised cells called T cells and B cells are key players in acquired immunity.</p> <p>T cells (specifically, helper T cells and cytotoxic T cells) recognise viral proteins on the surface of infected cells:</p> <ul> <li> <p>helper T cells release molecules that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764486/">further activate immune cells</a></p> </li> <li> <p>cytotoxic T cells directly kill infected cells with a very great precision, <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00678/full">avoiding any healthy cells around</a>.</p> </li> </ul> <p>B cells produce antibodies, which are proteins that can bind to viruses, neutralise them, and mark them for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7247032/">destruction by other immune cells</a>.</p> <p>B cells are a critical part of memory in our immune system. They will remember what happened and won’t forget for years. When the same virus attacks again, B cells will be ready to fight it off and will neutralise it faster and better.</p> <p>Thanks to the adaptive immune system, vaccines for respiratory viruses such as the COVID mRNA vaccine keep us protected from <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/covid-19-vaccines/our-vaccines/how-they-work">being sick or severely ill</a>. However, if the same virus became mutated, our immune system will act as if it was a new virus and will have to fight in a war again.</p> <h2>Neutralising the threat</h2> <p>As the immune response progresses, the combined efforts of the innate and adaptive immune systems helps control the virus. Infected cells are cleared, and the virus is neutralised and eliminated from the body.</p> <p>As the infection subsides, symptoms gradually improve, and we begin to feel better and to recover.</p> <p>But recovery varies depending on the specific virus and us as individuals. Some respiratory viruses, like rhinoviruses which cause the common cold, may cause relatively mild symptoms and a quick recovery. Others, like the flu, SARS-CoV-2 or severe cases of RSV, may lead to more severe symptoms and a longer recovery time.</p> <p>Some viruses are very strong and too fast sometimes so that our immune system does not have the time to develop a proper immune response to fight them off. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/207023/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lara-herrero-1166059">Lara Herrero</a>, Research Leader in Virology and Infectious Disease, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/wesley-freppel-1408971">Wesley Freppel</a>, Research Fellow, Institute for Glycomics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-happens-in-our-body-when-we-encounter-and-fight-off-a-virus-like-the-flu-sars-cov-2-or-rsv-207023">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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“Done with the vaccine”: Karl Stefanovic blasts fifth booster

<p>Karl Stefanovic has once again sparked controversy after declaring he is “done with the vaccine.”</p> <p>Karl shocked viewers after expressing concerns that the jab could cause “heart issues” as the Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) updated its vaccine recommendations. </p> <p>According to the ATAGI, as of February 20, anyone aged 18 and over who has not had the COVID vaccine or has not contracted the virus in the past six months will be eligible to get another shot - opening up a fourth dose for Aussies aged 19-29 and a fifth dose for those 65 and over. </p> <p>“As you know, I am not a glowing ambassador for more than two shots,” Stefanovic said.</p> <p>The Today show host then questioned whether another dose would be able to fight new strains of the virus, stating he is aware of people “over the age of 60 who are still incredibly nervous about getting it."</p> <p>“The other thing that I am concerned about, if I have another dose, is that I may get complications,” he said. </p> <p>The host’s guest, medical expert Dr Nick Coatsway insisted Australians aged 60 and over “needn’t be” scared of the jab but added that the conceded boosters are only a temporary solution.</p> <p>“Let’s understand the science, if you get a fifth dose your protection is enhanced for around about 8-12 weeks and then it returns after the fourth dose or the third dose,” Dr Coatsworth said.</p> <p>The ATAGI has again emphasised the importance of Aussies who are already eligible, including people over 65, to get their booster in 2023 as they remain at high risk of severe disease and death from COVID. </p> <p>Currently, there is no additional booster available to those 18 and below, with the exception of children aged 5-17 who are at high risk of developing a severe illness.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Getty</em></p>

TV

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6 habits of people who don’t get sick

<p>Winter is a dangerous time. Although cold temperatures themselves don’t cause us to get sick, our winter habits invite the spread of germs and risk of contagion is high.</p> <p>If you find yourself sick every winter, here are some useful habits of those healthy people to take up.</p> <p><strong>1. They get enough sleep</strong></p> <p>It’s easy to experience disrupted sleep during winter. When air is too cold, it will negatively affect melatonin production and cause the body's sleep cycle to be disrupted. However, research shows that people who sleep only five to six hours a night have a 30 per cent chance of catching a cold when exposed to the virus; those who get more than seven hours reduce their risk to 17 per cent.</p> <p><strong>2. They pay extra attention to hygiene</strong></p> <p>With more germs in the air, now is the time to stay conscious about where they may be festering. Key areas include bathroom door handles, taps, fridges, elevator buttons and public transport. Keep antibacterial wipes on you so whenever you touch a high risk surface, you can cleanse you hand before eating, or touching your face and eyes.</p> <p><strong>3. They exercise regularly</strong></p> <p>Winter is notorious for zapping our work-out motivation. However, exercise strengthens the immune system and makes you less likely to catch upper respiratory infections.</p> <p><strong>4. The get their flu shot</strong></p> <p>Flu shots, approved for all adults, are effective 50 to 60 per cent of the time in preventing the flu and may also reduce the severity of symptoms.</p> <p><strong>5. They don’t smoke</strong></p> <p>Cigarette smoke appears to damage the mucus membranes, which act as the frontline barrier to infectious agents, making smokers twice as likely to catch a cold and several times more likely to develop the flu.</p> <p><strong>6. They enjoy a drink</strong></p> <p>Harvard University School of Public Health researchers found that red wine was particularly protective against colds, probably due to the anti-inflammatory action of the phenol, resveratrol. Just keep in mind that drinking more than two glasses a day raises the risk for infections.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

Body

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Parents' grim warning after losing 3-year-old to flu

<p>Doctors have issued a crucial warning for parents after a healthy and happy Perth toddler became the youngest person in Western Australia to die from the flu in 2023.</p> <p>Muhammed Saadiq Segaff is being remembered as a cheerful but cheeky boy after dying from a strain of the flu virus, influenza A.</p> <p>The three-year-old’s health rapidly declined at Fiona Stanley Hospital, located about 16km from the state's capital, where the toddler went from having difficulty breathing to cardiac arrest.</p> <p>As a result, he underwent open heart surgery before being transported to Perth’s Children's Hospital where doctors and nurses had to use a machine to keep Muhammed’s blood pumping during the transfer.</p> <p>Yet despite their best efforts, they couldn’t save his life, with his parents making the painful decision to turn off his life support on May 26 after his family flew in from Singapore to say their goodbyes.</p> <p>Although influenza is a common virus, it can be fatal in high risk groups as it attacks the lungs, nose and throat.</p> <p>Typical symptoms include chills, fever, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches, with most fit and healthy people able to recover without seeing a doctor.</p> <p>However, young children, senior adults, unhealthy adults and pregnant women have an increased chance of contracting more severe cases due to being immunocompromised.</p> <p>Doctors advise getting a flu shot annually, but statistics are showing that the uptake of flu vaccines in WA in 2023 is slower than usual.</p> <p>“We have a significant and effective prevention strategy for flu, it’s a flu vaccine,” Perth Children’s Hospital infectious diseases specialist Chris Blyth told <em>7News</em>.</p> <p>Despite the chilling warning, less than 14 per cent of children under five have gotten the vaccination in WA, with a slimmer figure for those aged between five and 15 years old.</p> <p>Dr Blyth said about 10 per cent of children who are admitted to hospital with the flu require intensive care.</p> <p>Parents are advised to monitor children for unusual symptoms associated with the flu, such as breathlessness and fast breathing, which Dr Blyth warned could impact the heart.</p> <p>“Confusion or drowsiness is another important sign. Both of those things would make me want to seek medical advice,” he said.</p> <p>“In the middle of winter, our hospitals are full of people with respiratory illnesses but if parents think their child is much sicker than they normally are they should be seeking advice.”</p> <p>Muhammed’s parents hope that by sharing their son’s heartbreaking story, more parents will consider vaccinating their children against the flu annually.</p> <p>“No parents want this to happen to their own children,” Muhammed’s mother Shikin Hasnawi told <em>7News</em>.</p> <p>“We just miss him so much,” his father Segaff Sinin said.</p> <p>The WA government has extended its free flu vaccine rollout to children and seniors until the end of June in an attempt to encourage further uptake of the shot.</p> <p><em>Image credit: 7 News Perth</em></p>

Caring

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I’m over 65 and worried about the flu. Which vaccine should I have?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/magdalena-plebanski-1063786">Magdalena Plebanski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jennifer-boer-1210047">Jennifer Boer</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katie-louise-flanagan-1066858">Katie Louise Flanagan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kirsty-wilson-1103649">Kirsty Wilson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p>Influenza, or the flu, is a virus transmitted by respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. It can cause the sudden onset of a fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, muscle and joint pain.</p> <p>In Australia, the flu is responsible for <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-cdi4004f.htm">more than 5,000 hospitalisation and 100 deaths</a> a year. The highest rates are among those over 65, whose immune systems aren’t as effective as they used to be, and children under five, whose immune systems are yet to mature.</p> <p>To combat the decline in immunity as we age, specific vaccines are available for people aged 65 and over. So how do they work, and why exactly are they needed?</p> <h2>Remind me, how does the immune system work?</h2> <p>The immune system uses multiple mechanisms to fight viral infections, which can be divided into two major arms of the immune system, called innate and adaptive immunity.</p> <p>Innate immunity involves multiple inflammatory cells and chemicals that are triggered immediately, or within hours of encountering an infection. They activate the immune system to clear the infection.</p> <p>Adaptive immunity takes a little longer (weeks) to work and involves memory T cells and antibody-producing B cells, which can be reactivated when the body encounters a virus or other pathogen.</p> <p>The combined innate and adaptive immune response determines how well we respond to an invading virus like influenza.</p> <h2>Why are older people more at risk from the flu?</h2> <p>Generally, as we age past 65, the innate cells become less effective at their job of clearing infections. They also start <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100616-060718">producing more inflammation</a>.</p> <p>New T and B cell numbers also decrease with increasing age and hence the adaptive immune response is also not as effective as when we are younger. This immune system decline is called immunosenescence, which leads to increased susceptibility, hospitalisation and death from influenza.Certain medical conditions, such as cancer and heart and lung conditions, increase susceptibility to severe influenza, with older people being more likely to have additional medical conditions than younger people.</p> <h2>What flu vaccines are available?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine">Annual flu vaccines</a> are recommended to protect against the common circulating strains of influenza, which can differ from year to year.</p> <p>The standard flu vaccines offered to adults aged under 65 consist of surface proteins of the virus or inactivated (killed) virus from four influenza strains: two A strains (H1N1 and H3N2) and two B strains.</p> <p>When you’re vaccinated, your immune system makes antibodies from B cells which protect you if you become exposed to these strains of the virus.</p> <p>However, the standard influenza vaccine is less effective in older people. Two stronger or augmented vaccines have been made targeting this age group. They contain the same components as the standard vaccine, but one vaccine – called <a href="https://www.ebs.tga.gov.au/ebs/picmi/picmirepository.nsf/pdf?OpenAgent&amp;id=CP-2020-CMI-01074-1&amp;d=20230529172310101">Fluad</a> – uses a strong adjuvant (an agent used to increase the immune response to vaccination) called MF59 to stimulate better immunity.</p> <p>The other augmented vaccine, called <a href="https://www.ebs.tga.gov.au/ebs/picmi/picmirepository.nsf/pdf?OpenAgent&amp;id=CP-2020-CMI-02062-1">Fluzone</a>, uses a four-fold higher dose of each influenza strain to increase immunity.</p> <h2>How do they compare?</h2> <p><a href="https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/73/11/e4251/5992287?login=false">Studies comparing Fluad and Fluzone</a> show both vaccines stimulate stronger immunity against influenza than the standard flu vaccine and are therefore likely to provide better protection.</p> <p>Studies directly testing for improved clinical outcomes with vaccines for over-65s show a small benefit of receiving either of the vaccines over the standard vaccine, including a modest decrease in lab-confirmed influenza, <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(17)30235-7/fulltext">hospitalisations</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7563546/">emergency department visits</a> compared to the standard influenza vaccine.</p> <p>They are however yet to show and impact on flu-related deaths.</p> <figure class="align-right "> </figure> <p>In the few studies comparing <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/73/11/e4251/5992287?login=false">Fluad and Fluzone directly</a>, there is little evidence of a difference between them in reducing influenza and serious flu outcomes. <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/atagi-advice-on-seasonal-influenza-vaccines-in-2023">The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation therefore recommends</a> using either Fluad or Fluzone.</p> <p>While both have been Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved since 2020, only Fluad is available for free on the National Immunisation Program for people aged 65 and over.</p> <p>Fluzone is only available with a private prescription if you’re 60 years and over, at a cost of around A$65-70.</p> <p>If neither augmented vaccine is available, a standard influenza vaccine is also acceptable for older people, since any influenza vaccine is preferable to receiving none.</p> <p>Flu vaccines can also be given at the same time as COVID vaccines.</p> <h2>How else can we protect against the flu?</h2> <p>While influenza vaccination is the single most effective way of preventing influenza, other measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask or N95 respirator can also provide some <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5779801/">community protection</a>.</p> <p>Wearing a mask or N95 respirator significantly <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5779801/">reduces the risk</a> of infecting others when infected.</p> <p>The evidence for protecting oneself against infection is less conclusive, mainly because it’s linked to early, consistent and, importantly, the <a href="https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/influenza/advice-on-the-use-of-masks-in-the-community-setting-in-influenza-a-(h1n1)-outbreaks.pdf?sfvrsn=24a45a95_1&amp;download=true">correct use of masks</a>.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/204810/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/magdalena-plebanski-1063786">Magdalena Plebanski</a>, Professor of Immunology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jennifer-boer-1210047">Jennifer Boer</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katie-louise-flanagan-1066858">Katie Louise Flanagan</a>, Infectious Diseases Specialist and Clinical Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kirsty-wilson-1103649">Kirsty Wilson</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/im-over-65-and-worried-about-the-flu-which-vaccine-should-i-have-204810">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Should I get a flu vaccine this year? Here’s what you need to know

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-griffin-1129798">Paul Griffin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>After having low rates of influenza (flu) transmission in recent years thanks to our COVID control strategies, case numbers are now rising.</p> <p>So far this year, Australia has had <a href="https://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/news-data/influenza-statistics/">more than 32,000</a> lab-confirmed cases of the flu and 32 deaths.</p> <p>Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to protect against getting the flu. These are reformulated each year to protect against the most widely circulating strains – if our predictions are right.</p> <p>Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the 2023 flu vaccine. But first, some flu basics.</p> <h2>What are the different types of flu?</h2> <p>There are two main types of influenza: influenza A and influenza B. On the surface of the influenza virus there are two main proteins, the hemagglutinin (HA or H) and neuraminidase (NA or N).</p> <p>Different strains are named after their versions of the H and N proteins, as in H1N1 or “swine flu”.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/525044/original/file-20230509-15-c78c12.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/525044/original/file-20230509-15-c78c12.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=396&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525044/original/file-20230509-15-c78c12.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=396&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525044/original/file-20230509-15-c78c12.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=396&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525044/original/file-20230509-15-c78c12.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=498&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525044/original/file-20230509-15-c78c12.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=498&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/525044/original/file-20230509-15-c78c12.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=498&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /><figcaption><span class="caption">HA is the yellow spike, while the NA is the green oval.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/structure-influenza-virus-infographics-vector-illustration-542924464?src=ixiW0w-59I3I17RpN4L3wQ-1-12">Shutterstock</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Minor changes in the proteins (HA and NA) on the surface are common because the enzyme the virus uses to make copies of itself is prone to errors.</p> <p>Sometimes the influenza virus can change more abruptly when it mixes up components from different influenza viruses – including influenza viruses that typically infect birds, pigs or bats – to create a virus that’s basically new.</p> <p>The regular change in the virus is the reason the vaccine is updated every year. The <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/about-tga/advisory-bodies-and-committees/australian-influenza-vaccine-committee-aivc">Australian Influenza Vaccine Committee</a> meets late in the year to plan what should be included in the vaccine for the following season, after considering what happened in our last flu season and in the Northern hemisphere winter.</p> <h2>What strains does this year’s flu shot protect against?</h2> <p>Modern flu vaccines typically protect against four strains. For this year’s vaccine, the committee <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/publication/meeting-statements/aivc-recommendations-composition-influenza-vaccines-australia-2023">has recommended</a> it includes:</p> <ul> <li> <p>an A/Sydney/5/2021 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus</p> </li> <li> <p>an A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus</p> </li> <li> <p>a B/Austria/1359417/2021 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus</p> </li> <li> <p>a B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus.</p> </li> </ul> <p>The naming of the viral components can sometimes be confusing. The name is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/viruses/types.htm">derived from</a> the virus type (A or B)/the place it was first isolated/strain number/year isolated (virus subtype).</p> <p>This year’s vaccine therefore includes an influenza A virus similar to the 2009 pandemic-causing H1N1 isolated from Sydney in 2021 and a second influenza A virus (H3N2) isolated in Darwin in 2021.</p> <p>Influenza B viruses are classified into 2 lineages: Victoria and Yamagata. This year’s vaccine includes an influenza B isolated from Austria in 2021 (Victoria lineage) and an influenza B isolated in Phuket in 2013 (Yamagata lineage).</p> <h2>Who should get a flu shot?</h2> <p>Health authorities <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine">recommend</a> everyone aged six months of age or over should get the flu vaccine every year.</p> <p><a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/2023-national-immunisation-program-influenza-vaccination-early-advice-for-vaccination-providers">Some groups</a> are at greater risk of significant disease from the flu and can access the flu vaccine for free. This includes:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over</p> </li> <li> <p>children aged six months to five years</p> </li> <li> <p>pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy</p> </li> <li> <p>people aged 65 years or over</p> </li> <li> <p>people aged five years to 65 years who have certain underlying health conditions affecting the heart, lungs, kidneys or immune system, and those with diabetes.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>How can I get it?</h2> <p>You can get a flu shot from your local general practice or pharmacy. Or you may have an opportunity to get vaccinated at your workplace if your employer supplies it.</p> <p>While the vaccine is free for those in the <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-02/fighting-flu-starts-with-you-consumer-fact-sheet.pdf">above groups</a>, there can be a consultation or administration fee, depending on where you get your vaccine.</p> <p>If you aren’t eligible for a free vaccine, it usually costs around A$20-$30.</p> <h2>Are there different options?</h2> <p>For over 65s, whose immune systems may not work as well as when they were younger, a <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-03/atagi-advice-on-seasonal-influenza-vaccines-in-2023.pdf">specific vaccine</a> is available that includes an adjuvant which boosts the immune response. This is free for over-65s under the national immunisation program.</p> <p>A high-dose vaccine is also available for people aged 60 and over. However this isn’t currently funded and costs around $70 on a private prescription.</p> <p>People with egg allergies can safely get the egg-based flu vaccine. However there is also a cell-based immunisation for people who don’t want a vaccine made in eggs. When vaccines are grown in eggs, sometimes the virus can change and this might affect the level of protection. Cell-based vaccines aim to address this issue.</p> <p>The cell-based vaccine isn’t funded so patients will pay around $40 for a private prescription.</p> <h2>How well do they work?</h2> <p>The vaccine’s effectiveness depends on how well the strains in the vaccine match those circulating. It generally <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/aisr-2022-national-influenza-season-summary">reduces</a> the chance of being admitted to hospital with influenza by <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/08/influenza-vaccine-efficacy-effectiveness-and-impact-explained.docx">30-60%</a>.</p> <h2>What are the side effects?</h2> <p>You can’t get the flu from the vaccine as there’s no live virus in it.</p> <p>When people get a flu-like illness after the vaccine, it can be due to mild effects we sometimes see after vaccination, such as headaches, tiredness or some aches and pains. These usually go away <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine#possible-side-effects-of-influenza-vaccination">within a day or two</a>.</p> <p>Alternatively, symptoms after getting a flu shot may be due to another respiratory virus such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that circulates in winter.</p> <h2>When’s the best time to get your flu shot?</h2> <p>The vaccine provides <a href="https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/contents/vaccine-preventable-diseases/influenza-flu#vaccine-information">peak protection</a> around three to four months <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine#when-to-get-the-influenza-vaccine">after</a> you get it.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/news-data/influenza-statistics/">peak of the flu season</a> is usually between June and September, however this changes every year and can vary in different parts of the country.</p> <p>Given this, the best time to get the vaccine is usually around late April or early May. So if you haven’t already, now would be a good time to get it.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/203406/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-griffin-1129798">Paul Griffin</a>, Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/should-i-get-a-flu-vaccine-this-year-heres-what-you-need-to-know-203406">original article</a>.</em></p>

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“Putrid cookers”: Anti-vaxxers slammed for spreading lies about Jock Zonfrillo’s death

<p dir="ltr">Just hours after MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo’s sudden death, heartless anti-vaxxers took to social media to spread disinformation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Zonfrillo died in Melbourne on May 1. While the cause of death has not been publicly announced, police said that his death was not being treated as suspicious, and a report was made for the coroner.</p> <p dir="ltr">The anti-vaxxers took this as a chance to spread disinformation online, implying that his death was linked to the Covid vaccine.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Did Jock Zonfrillo get the Pfizer or Moderna RNA vaccine?” one person tweeted the day after his death.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another commented on the way that his death was described as “sudden” with no confirmed cause- completely ignoring the fact that Zonfrillo’s family have not released that information.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The mainstream media has been reporting countless such ‘sudden deaths’ with ‘no cause of death given’,” wrote the anti-vaxxer on Facebook on May 2.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Since when are death reports being provided with no cause given?</p> <p dir="ltr">“I know since when: since they rolled out those experimental Covid vaccines, which are dropping people faster than they can clue in that it is murdering them. The mainstream media and medical establishment will never admit it – they omit the REAL reason someone died by saying ‘no immediate cause of death was given’,” wrote another.</p> <p dir="ltr">The ill-informed comments have attracted significant backlash from Aussies who slammed the “cookers” for taking advantage of the tragedy to spread disinformation.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Of course the putrid cookers have already come out, saying it was the Covid vaccine that killed Jock Zonfrillo. They really are opportunistic scum. RIP Jock,” one person tweeted in response to the lies.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Of course the putrid cookers have already come out, saying it was the covid vaccine that killed Jock Zonfrillo. <br />They really are opportunistic scum.<br />RIP Jock. <a href="https://t.co/t7jxe9QX1P">pic.twitter.com/t7jxe9QX1P</a></p> <p>— JayJay (@JayJay91341991) <a href="https://twitter.com/JayJay91341991/status/1653215630768865281?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 2, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">“I’m always unsurprised at the amount of cookers that come out of the woodwork when a celebrity dies. Shame on anyone who is using Jock Zonfrillo’s death to push their anti-vax vile rhetoric,” tweeted another.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I’m always unsurprised at the amount of cookers that come out of the woodwork when a celebrity dies. Shame on anyone who is using Jock Zonfrillo’s death to push their anti-vax vile rhetoric.</p> <p>— MrDreeps (@MrDreepy) <a href="https://twitter.com/MrDreepy/status/1652947746419281921?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 1, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">“Distance yourself from people who impulsively attribute the death of a celebrity to the Covid-19 Vaccine.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It demonstrates extreme congruence bias, and a profound lack of empathy. #jockzonfrillo,” wrote a third.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Distance yourself from people who impulsively attribute the death of a celebrity to the Covid-19 Vaccine. </p> <p>It demonstrates extreme congruence bias, and a profound lack of empathy. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/jockzonfrillo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#jockzonfrillo</a></p> <p>— Nick Holt (@realnickholt) <a href="https://twitter.com/realnickholt/status/1652919969926254592?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 1, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p dir="ltr"> </p>

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