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Free flu immunisation ends soon

Free flu immunisation ends soon

New Zealanders eligible for free influenza immunisation have only a short time left to be vaccinated before the Government-subsidised campaign ends for this year on August 31.

Medical Officer of Health Jim Miller says our influenza season seems to have started later than usual this year.

“Influenza seasons can be very unpredictable, so there may be worse to come,” he says.

The A (H1N1) strain of influenza has been most common across the country so far this year and is being picked up locally.

“This has been responsible for severe infections in previous outbreaks, but is well covered in this year’s vaccine,” says Dr Miller. “I would encourage people in the higher risk groups to have the flu vaccine whilst it still free - it isn’t too late to make sure you and your family are protected.”

Influenza is much more than a ‘bad cold’. It is a serious disease that can lead to complications, especially for people with ongoing medical conditions. Influenza usually has symptoms such as a sudden onset of illness, high fever, headache, a dry cough and illness usually lasts 7-10 days.

Influenza is easily spread through coughing, sneezing and touching contaminated surfaces. Good hygiene such as covering coughs, using tissues when sneezing and handwashing can help reduce the risk, but immunisation is the best protection for those at most risk.

Influenza vaccinations are free from a doctor or nurse for New Zealanders until the end of August if you are in one of these groups:

· People aged 65 and over
· Anyone under 65 years of age (including children) with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers
Pregnant women
Children aged from six months and up to five years of age who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Influenza immunisation will be available after August 31 for a charge from a doctor, nurse or in some pharmacies.

For free health advice, call Healthline 0800 611 116. For advice about influenza immunisation visit www.fightflu.co.nz or www.ttophs.govt.nz/influenza, or text FLU to 515.

Ends

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