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Kiwis flock to ‘Kung Fu’ Flu

MEDIA RELEASE

www.influenza.org.nz
May 16, 2008

Kiwis flock to ‘Kung Fu’ Flu

Latest data suggests that New Zealanders have heeded the “Kung Fu” influenza immunisation message this year.

Influenza immunisation is up by 112,900 doses in New Zealand so far this season compared to the same time last year – an increase of 19.9 percent on the same period in 2007, reports the National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)1.

“With over 680,500 doses already in surgeries many people should already have been vaccinated – so the uptake figures are encouraging. We would, however, urge anyone who is eligible for free immunisation, and who has not already had the vaccine, to contact their surgery soon to ensure they are protected before the main influenza season strikes,” comments NISG chair, Anna-Marie Frost.

The new influenza immunisation promotional campaign takes a “Kung Fu” martial arts theme this year to show that immunisation is still one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from influenza and that “you’re never too fit to get hit”.

Until the end of June 2008 influenza immunisation is free from a doctor or nurse for people 65 years and over or people under 65 with a long-term health condition.

NISG spokesperson and virologist, Dr Lance Jennings says that the most recent ESR influenza surveillance report2 out today shows both influenza A and B viruses are already circulating in New Zealand, particularly in the South Island. .According to the report, Otago and Manawatu had the highest consultation rates for influenza-like illness.

“We know that cooler temperatures are associated with the spread of respiratory viruses like influenza and the recent colder weather has spurred them along,” he says.

He says it’s important to be immunised before winter as it can take up to two weeks from vaccination to develop immunity.

Influenza can be a serious and potentially fatal disease particularly for people who have long term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease and most cancers as they are most at risk of complications.

“Influenza is easily spread and anyone can catch it. The virus may remain infectious on some surfaces for up to 48 hours so regular handwashing is also advisable to prevent the spread of the infection,“ he adds.


ENDS


Background Information on Influenza:

Influenza is a potentially serious viral infection – much worse than a cold. Complications of the illness can last for weeks, often confines you to bed and can carry the risk of permanent damage or death.

The influenza vaccine available in New Zealand cannot give you influenza as the vaccine does not contain any live viruses.

Even when you are immunised you should practise good hygiene to prevent the spread of the infection. You should cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and then wash your hands. You should always use disposable tissues and stay at home when sick.

You can only be immune to a particular strain of the virus if you’ve had it before. And, as the virus strains keep changing each year, most people are unlikely to have natural immunity. That’s why annual immunisation is important to provide protection from the strains most likely to circulate in New Zealand. The inactivated influenza vaccine provides the best protection against influenza.

The influenza vaccine composition for New Zealand for 2008 is:

o an A/Solomon Islands/3/2006 (H1N1)-like virus;
o an A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus;
o a B/Florida/4/2006-like virus.


For further information go to www.influenza.org.nz or www.moh.govt.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.

1National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)
NISG was formed in 2000 by the Ministry of Health to increase public awareness of influenza, its seriousness and the importance of immunisation to prevent the disease.

2 ESR Surveillance report

(http://www.surv.esr.cri.nz/virology/influenza_weekly_update.php)

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