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It’s Not Too Late To Fight Influenza

MEDIA RELEASE
21 June 2004

It’s Not Too Late To Fight Influenza

With temperatures dropping and the first signs of influenza-like illness appearing in Auckland, Waitemata DHB is reminding people it’s not too late to fight flu.

During winter a network of 35 sentinel GPs across Auckland is reporting the number of patients seen with influenza-like illness to the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

Influenza symptoms include fever and chills, cough, muscle ache, fatigue and headache. The virus can also trigger existing medical conditions, making them worse.

Waitemata DHB Public Health Physician Dr Robyn Whittaker says reports from the past three weeks indicate at least a dozen people per week have visited the sentinel GPs with influenza-like symptoms.

“The figures are small at this stage but in most years there is a sharp increase in influenza activity during June so people really need to protect themselves now before it reaches its height,” says Dr Whittaker.

Until the end of June people aged 65-plus and those with certain medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and asthma are entitled to free flu vaccinations.

Dr Whittaker says that taking this type of preventive step to avoid serious illness also helps ease the burden on hospital services at this time of year.

North Shore Hospital’s first ever Winter Ward opened earlier this month and was full just days after opening.

“The hospital functions at near capacity for the whole year but the arrival of winter adds a whole other pressure.

“If people take steps to stay well and visit their GP early on when they feel ill, they can avoid a visit to our Emergency Care Centre later which reduces the burden both on the hospital and on patients,” Dr Whittaker says.

This year’s influenza vaccine protects against three strains of the virus – the New Caledonia, Fujian and Hong Kong-like strains.

It will still be available to members of high risk groups after June but patients will have to pay for it from that time.


ENDS

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