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‘Get protected’ as winter and influenza approach

Its time to ‘get protected’ as winter and influenza approach

Now’s the time to get protected against influenza, as the vaccine is available at GPs, and it’s free for many people considered to be at risk of serious illness if they were to contract influenza.

Vaccination is free for everyone aged over 65 years, and to anyone (including children) who have an existing medical condition such as heart, chest or kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, or other conditions which affect the immune system such as HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, or being on medications which suppress the immune system. Ask you doctor or practice nurse if you qualify for a free immunisation.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board medical officer of health, Dr Caroline McElnay, said the particular strains of influenza circulating in the northern hemisphere during their winter outbreak hit people hard, and even healthy people found they couldn’t ‘shake it off’ easily.

Children with underlying medical conditions were particularly hard hit in the northern hemisphere, and Dr McElnay urged parents and caregivers to talk to their health professional about having their children immunised if they were considered to be at risk of serious complications if they contracted influenza.

She said people travelling overseas should include an influenza vaccination as part of their travel vaccination plan. “While the influenza vaccine won’t protect against avian influenza, the risk is that a person may acquire the avian flu at the same time that they are infected with human influenza.

“Influenza is a serious disease, and can affect anyone,” Dr McElnay said. “It’s important to remember, you do need an influenza vaccine each year, to protect yourself against the current strains of the virus.

“Influenza vaccine is free for those at greatest risk only until the 30th June - the sooner you are vaccinated the sooner you are protected. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective,” says Margaret Dalton

Lee Wright, Team Leader of Health Promotion has rheumatoid arthritis and every year since the introduction of the free vaccines for the at risk group, Lee has had her influenza vaccination.

“I am a real believer in the influenza vaccine, if I get the flu I’m down for two weeks or more and can suffer from complications for months afterwards. It means I’m away from my job, adds pressures for my family and generally leads to loss of enjoyment of life,” says Lee Wright.

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