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Time to get your influenza vaccination

Time to get your influenza vaccination

14 April 2014

Influenza can be a serious disease resulting in hospital admission, severe complications and even death, MidCentral Medical Officer of Health Dr Rob Weir says.

There have already been cases of influenza in New Zealand this year, with a serious outbreak of H1N1 swine flu in Hawke’s Bay leaving a woman in a coma.

Dr Weir said: “Influenza is very different from the common cold, with high fever, muscle aches and shivering being common. People with influenza will notice a rapid onset of an illness that typically lasts 7-10 days. Complications like pneumonia, heart failure and worsening asthma can follow. Complications are more common in pregnant women, people with certain pre-existing medical conditions and in older age groups.

“Approximately 400 deaths occur in New Zealand every year due to influenza. This is why influenza vaccination is offered free to people aged 65 years and over, and people with certain medical conditions. It is also offered free to women who are pregnant, and is especially beneficial for both pregnant women and their unborn babies.”

Dr Weir said: “Influenza can affect anyone, no matter how fit, active and healthy you may be. While people with underlying health conditions are most at risk of complications, previously healthy people can also become seriously ill and can also pass it on to others.”

Central Primary Health Organisation Executive Clinical Director, Chiquita Hansen said: “I got my flu vaccination early this year because I was travelling. Some of the current strains have been very nasty in the northern winter, and they are likely to be here this year. My strong advice is to get the flu vaccination by booking at the local medical centre or pharmacy as soon as practical.”

The influenza virus is highly contagious so it is easy to spread the disease to your family/whanau and friends if you are infected by the virus. If you avoid becoming infected yourself then you can’t pass the virus on to others around you. Therefore being vaccinated protects both yourself and the people around you.

Over 650,000 influenza vaccine doses had been distributed in New Zealand by the end of March, with 21,840 of those being in the MidCentral DHB area. This was 10% higher than the same time last year. Dr Weir was pleased with the good start to the influenza vaccine season but wants the level of uptake of the vaccine to be higher with only 13% of the MidCentral DHB population currently immunised.

“The influenza vaccine is available in the MidCentral DHB area now. It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to start working so I would recommend having the vaccine as soon as possible. This is especially important since there have already been cases within New Zealand,” Dr Weir said.

For more information you can phone 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).

Ends

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