Flu symptoms can be very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your symptoms are mild, get tested for COVID-19 immediately — use the colds and flu Symptom Checker if you're not sure what to do.
What is the flu?
Influenza, or 'the flu', is a highly contagious respiratory illness. It's a common cause of hospitalisation and leads to thousands more GP visits every year. Many people die annually from complications of the flu in Australia.
While you can catch the flu at any time, it's more likely to happen in the colder months of the year (April to October). The flu season typically peaks in August, but laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza have been higher than usual so far this year — as have calls about flu-related symptoms to the healthdirect helpline.
Currently there is a minimal level of flu-related calls to the healthdirect helpline. The flu vaccine and good hygiene are still the best ways of protection against the flu.
Flu trend report for health professionals
Health professionals can use this interactive report to get more data on flu-related calls to the healthdirect helpline, from January 2012 to the present.
The influenza syndromic surveillance report is updated twice a week between April and October, and less frequently during the warmer months.
What are the best ways to fight the flu?
Follow these easy tips to help prevent the spread of flu:
Get a flu shot
It is important to get the influenza vaccination each year to continue to be protected, since it wears off after 3 to 4 months and flu strains (types) change over time.
Wash your hands
In addition to vaccination, good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent flu and other illnesses from spreading. Wash your hands regularly.
Cover coughs and sneezes
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Bin your tissues
Throw used tissues in the bin immediately.
Don't share cups, plates, cutlery and towels with other people, if you can.
Keep surfaces clean
Clean surfaces such as your keyboard, phone and door handles regularly to get rid of germs.
Self-care at home
In most cases, you can treat mild flu or cold symptoms at home.
NOTE: Antibiotics won't help
Antibiotics do not reduce symptoms of flu or a cold, as these illnesses are caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections.
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Last reviewed: September 2020