We should be bracing for epidemic levels of flu infection this winter, according to influenza experts, who kicked-off their annual seasonal influenza vaccine campaign today.

“The flu virus struck hard and early in the northern hemisphere winter and has spread quickly,” warned Dr Alan Hampson, Chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group (ISG).

“While the timing of the main annual influenza outbreak in Australia is unpredictable, we could well follow the same trend.

“Getting a flu vaccination could save your life or the life of the people you love. That’s why we think that you’re a lifesaver when you’re flusmart,” Dr Hampson said.

Flu vaccine is free for pregnant women, those aged over 65 years, and children and adults with chronic conditions including asthma and respiratory problems, heart and kidney disease, and diabetes.

“Vaccination is still the single best prevention against influenza,” said Dr Hampson.

The ISG is monitoring the spread and impact of the disease across the northern hemisphere and its development in Australia.

Vaccinations are available from today through GPs and work-based programs.

Don’t delay. Early vaccination is critical to avoid contracting or passing on the flu within a two-week window between getting the shot and being fully immunised.