2015 a normal flu season so far

Media release

06 August 2015

New Zealand is experiencing a normal flu season to date.

Latest surveillance data from ESR indicates cases in 2015 are just above a moderate level, and may move higher yet.

However the rate of influenza like illness is, per 100,000 of population, only a little over a quarter of the way towards what would be considered a severe epidemic.

The acting Director of Public Health, Dr Stewart Jessamine, says after two mild years, in 2013 and 2014, this is much more like an average flu season.

"Obviously it is possible the season has yet to peak, although the rate of growth in cases did ease somewhat in the last week. Weekly monitoring means we can soon pick up any change in the situation.

"It's important to note that New Zealand health authorities are well used to experiencing the pressures that even a moderate flu season can impose. The annual influenza vaccination programme and district health board preparedness activities occur well in advance of the influenza season."

Dr Jessamine says some parts of the country may be experiencing higher rates than others, including variation between the A strain and B strain.

"The symptoms experienced are the same for either strain. Influenza is a serious virus and can be life-threatening, especially for people who already have existing serious health conditions."

Both influenza strains circulating are covered by the vaccine used in New Zealand this year. 

Dr Jessamine emphasises the annual flu vaccination campaign is running until the end of August, and people should get themselves vaccinated if they had not done so.

The campaign has already reached its target of immunising 1.2 million New Zealanders with the influenza vaccine this year.

Dr Jessamine says immunisation is the best protection but there are some simple rules that people can follow to help themselves and others.

  • If you are worried about your own or another person’s symptoms or have underlying health condition that makes you vulnerable to severe illness, you should call the Healthline on 0800 611 116 or your GP for further advice.
  • Prevent the spread of illness by ensuring everyone covers their mouth and nose with  tissues when coughing and sneezing.  If there are no tissues available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve – not your hands. Remember to wash your hands afterwards.
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly. Clean hands are really important in preventing the spread of winter viruses. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water and dry them for 20 seconds with a dry towel or paper towel. 
  • And clean surfaces that are touched a lot (door handles, bench tops, toilet and bathroom areas).  One of the most effective and cheapest disinfecting solutions to clean these surfaces is a solution of household bleach and water. 

You can read more about influenza in the Yourhealth guide.

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