General practices and some pharmacies in the MidCentral district are now offering influenza vaccinations to protect against influenza during the upcoming winter season.
MidCentral DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Robert Weir said it was important to receive the vaccination annually to protect against new strains of influenza.
“There have already been cases of influenza-like illness and confirmed influenza in the district, including some that have been admitted to hospital,” Dr Weir said.
“We are hearing about more cases in the district than we would normally expect at this time of the year.”
Dr Weir said the immunisation was the best protection against influenza and even if you still caught influenza after immunisation, your symptoms were likely to be less severe.
“Get immunised to stop the spread of influenza in your community. Even if you don’t feel sick, you could still be infected with influenza and pass it on to others.”
The immunisation is recommended and free for people who are most likely to get very sick, be hospitalised or even die if they catch influenza.
People who qualify for free immunisation include:
· anyone aged 65 years or over.
· pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy.
· people under 65 years of age, including children, with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma that requires regular preventive therapy), kidney disease and most cancers.
· children aged four and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
People who do not qualify for free immunisation may still be able to get one free or subsidised from their employer.
The influenza virus can be anywhere. It is easy to catch through coughs and sneezes and by touching some surfaces.
Infected people coughing, sneezing or talking creates droplets that can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. When you are unwell it is important to try and keep several metres from others to reduce the spread of the virus
Influenza is not the same as a cold. It is a serious disease that can also make other existing conditions, such as breathing or heart problems, even worse. Influenza usually has symptoms such as a sudden onset of illness, high fever, headache, and a dry cough. The illness usually lasts seven to 10 days.
In addition to getting an influenza vaccination, people can protect themselves, their family, friends and colleagues by following these tips:
· wash and dry your hands often
· stay away from people who are sick
· stay away from work, school or visiting people in hospital if you are unwell
· cover your coughs and sneezes; doing so into your sleeve, instead of your hands
For more info and to find out whether you qualify for free immunisation, visit www.fightflu.co.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).