The dreaded winter flu

SHOULD I or shouldn't I?

With winter days away people on the Coffs Coast fear the spread of the dreaded flu virus, with many questioning the benefits of the flu vaccination.

Every year the debate comes into play and, to try to make the decision a little easier, the Coffs Coast Advocate has attempted to offer a little insight into the argument for and against having the 'jab'.

The CEO of the Mid North Coast Division of General Practice, Dr David Ellis, said the most important thing to remember was that the flu was different from the common cold.

"The flu is a serious illness that can last for up to seven days, it includes a fever and in some cases can be fatal," Dr Ellis said.

"In 1918 more than 20 million people were killed by a flu epidemic and because the virus can change every year people should be immunised annually."

Despite the many arguments Dr Ellis said the influenza vaccine was remarkably safe.

"I've given about 250 shots a year and I've never seen anyone with a serious reaction, some claim it gave them the flu but this could not be true."

A practicing naturopath in the area, who did not wish to be named, said she was opposed to having the flu vaccine.

"The issue we have with the flu virus is that by the time there is a vaccine produced the virus has already mutated," she said.

"This means the strand is then different and whether or not the vaccine would do what is required is a debate for the elderly or the young. In the elderly it could actually compromise the immune system."

Another argument she put forward was that more research should be done to show if the vaccine actually was safe for everybody.

"There seems to be this view that it is important for people to be vaccinated. But this flu vaccine changes every year and there should be more studies on the effects, this is being tested on us ? we are the bunnies."

The naturopath said if you choose not to have a vaccine you must ensure your immune system is as good as possible.

"Wholistic health is the best approach to fighting the flu and this should be on an emotional and physical level, looking after the body as a whole," she said.

In agreement Dr Ellis said it was not recommended that everyone should rush out and have a vaccine before winter.

"I agree with the naturopath that, if you are a young fit person who is not at risk, then you didn't necessarily need to be vaccinated."

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