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Take one for the team!

May 28, 2014

Take one for the team!

With the ‘flu season upon us, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Health Professor Paul McDonald is encouraging everyone to go and get their annual ‘flu jab.

“In a university environment, there’s plenty of close contact with peers – some of whom could have the ‘flu. We need a sufficient proportion of people to take their vaccine to get a critical mass of protection,” he says.

The influenza vaccine is recommended for particularly vulnerable groups in society, with free vaccines offered to anyone aged over 65 years, pregnant women, diabetics, people with a serious medical condition, people who regularly use an asthma inhaler, people with heart disease or kidney problems, some infants and children under the age of five with a history of significant respiratory illness, and people with cancer.

“Influenza can be quite serious for large parts of the population and cause complications such as pneumonia. However, even otherwise healthy people have a responsibility to get a flu jab,” Professor McDonald says. “Even if you are not in a vulnerable category, you need to take one for the team to avoid spreading the ‘flu.”

Massey University’s Health and Counselling Centre has been supporting this call to action by reducing the cost of influenza shots for registered staff and students. Staff pay $20 while students pay $17. Since March this year, 556 ‘flu shots have been administered at the Albany centre.

Professor McDonald says that myths about the ‘flu vaccine often prevent people from going ahead with the shot.

“Vaccines these days have the benefit of international surveillance on adverse reactions, but there are myths that need to be regularly debunked.”

1. You’ll get the ‘flu from the ‘flu vaccination
False – the vaccine is not live, so it can’t give you the ‘flu. After you have the ‘flu shot, you’ll be monitored for 20 minutes or so to confirm that you’ve had no reaction. You may get a few mild flu-like symptoms as your body builds antibodies.

2. It hurts
False – the needles used by medical centres these days are very fine. It goes into your arm and you barely feel a thing.

3. It doesn’t work
False – the vaccine typically covers three common and potentially serious strains of influenza. It is very effective for these types of ‘flu. However, you may develop the ‘flu from more mild or less common strains not covered by the vaccine. Also – influenza should not be confused with colds and other types of respiratory viruses.

Viruses are often inhaled, but can also be contracted through touch, eyes and ears. Professor McDonald says following simple personal hygiene steps will help fight the ’flu:

• Wash your hands often, using soap and water
• Check the alcohol content of your hand sanitiser – it should be at least 60 per cent alcohol

“If you do contract the ‘flu or have ‘flu-like symptoms, stay home, rest, and monitor any complications,” he says. “If you are in a high-risk group, seek medical advice. You are highly contagious for the first three to 24 hours, so do not go to work or any place where you could be in close contact with people, and do not fly.”

Studies suggest that in the confines of an aeroplane cabin, germs can be spread to others within a four metre radius of the infected person.

“If you get a real case of influenza – or other serious form of respiratory infection – re-schedule your flight. There’s nothing worse than risking your health and spreading those germs even wider.”

For more information about the influenza vaccine, go to the website: www.fightflu.co.nz

ENDS

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