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Outbreak Of Influenza Is A Timely Warning

Outbreak Of Influenza Is A Timely Warning To Be Vaccinated

AN outbreak of influenza in Christchurch this month is a timely warning to people to be vaccinated.

Those most at risk of contracting influenza are aged 65 years and over and children and adults with certain ongoing medical conditions which place them at risk of developing complications such as pneumonia.

The Ministry of Health is urging the public not to be complacent about influenza because it is a serious illness that can kill.

In the last two weeks a number of elderly Christchurch residents have been diagnosed with influenza. Influenza type A virus has been identified in one individual. In the last three weeks there have also been reports of influenza type A outbreaks in the Wairarapa.

National Influenza Immunisation Strategy Group member and virologist Dr Lance Jennings said the outbreaks were timely reminders for the public to be vaccinated. The Ministry of Health is offering free influenza vaccinations until the end of June for those 65 years and over, as well as adults and children with certain ongoing medical conditions.

"It is vitally important people take advantage of the free vaccinations. Influenza will make people feel miserable for up to 10 days but it is the longer lasting effects on the elderly or those with chronic illnesses that is of the most concern. If these people get influenza they can't always bounce back to good health.

"A bout of influenza could lead to hospitalisation for pneumonia or complications with a person's existing illness or disease".

Dr Jennings said hospital staff were another group of people who should be immunised to prevent the virus passing from a relatively healthy person to the sick and elderly.

He said the vaccination was updated each year to provide protection against new emerging strains of influenza, therefore it was important people be vaccinated annually.

"Don't delay as it takes 10-14 days for the vaccination to become fully effective and protect people".

At the end of April this year, approximately 153,300 funded doses of influenza vaccine had been administered. This is considerably less than the number of funded doses administered in a similar period last year (195,300).

Dr Jennings said lower vaccine usage may have been due to the unseasonably warm weather or people's perception that influenza was not a serious disease.

There have been 19 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza identified in New Zealand between 1 January and 11 May this year. Three of these have been confirmed over the last few weeks. It is usual for outbreaks to occur during autumn and they usually herald the onset of the winter epidemic of influenza.

People who are not eligible for the free vaccination can still talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated against influenza. Some businesses subsidise or provide free vaccinations to their employees to decrease winter illnesses.

ends


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