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Influenza season yet to peak
June 12, 2008

Influenza season yet to peak

Health officials warn the peak influenza season may not be far away.

Today’s ESR influenza surveillance report1 shows influenza cases are still relatively low this winter, although rates are higher than at the same time in 2007.

“In recent years we have seen a rapid rise in cases from the end of June and another peak in July or August. Fortunately, there is still time for people to get free immunisation,“ comments National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)2 spokesperson Dr Lance Jennings.

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, until the end of June 2008.

Dr Jennings says it’s important to be immunised before the end of June as it can take up to two weeks from vaccination to develop immunity.

Influenza immunisation is up by more than 12,000 doses in New Zealand so far this season compared to the same time last year – an increase of almost two percent on the same period in 2007, reports NISG. Around 735,000 doses of vaccine have been distributed to surgeries so far.

“The uptake figures are looking good but they could still be better. Only 64% of people 65 years and over and only 38% of people with a chronic condition got the vaccine last year. We urge people who are eligible for free immunisation to see their doctor or nurse soon to ensure they are protected before the main influenza season strikes,” comments NISG chair, Anna-Marie Frost.

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. We haven’t seen it at its worst yet this winter,”he warns.


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