Pandemic Influenza H1N1 2009 (swine flu) – Update 198
Pandemic media release
Influenza activity is beginning to increase significantly and this is reflected in the graph below showing the rates of influenza-like illness in the community. The number of calls to Healthline continues to increase, and last week 22.4% of all calls to Healthline were related to influenza-like illness. This is the highest rate this year, however, it is well below the 35.8% seen at this time last year, just after the peak of the 2009 pandemic wave.
The pandemic influenza strain is the predominant strain circulating this winter. In some areas, particularly those who were not greatly affected last year, are now being hit with high levels of illness in the community.
We are seeing higher levels of hospitalisation in areas that weren't severely affected last year. There have been 58 people admitted to hospital reported in the last week with influenza type illness, bringing the total to 222 admitted to hospital this year.
We know that for most people it's a mild illness, however for some it can be severe, which it's why it's important to seek medical advice early. This is particularly important for people at higher risk of severe illness like pregnant women, young children, those who are severely overweight and people with other significant health problems. Call your GP or Healthline 0800 611 116.
It's quite likely that DHBs with lower rates of hospitalisations last year could have greater numbers of people still susceptible to the disease, and so higher rates this year. Three DHBs have already reported higher rates of people hospitalised with influenza pandemic (H1N1) swine flu than they did last year - they are Bay of Plenty, Lakes and Taranaki. These DHBs had low hospitalisation rates last year.
DHBs with low rates last year which are seeing quite a lot of early influenza activity this year are Waikato, South Canterbury and MidCentral DHBs. Other DHBs with low rates last year were Otago, West Coast, Wairarapa, Whanganui, Nelson Marlborough and Southland. At the other end of the scale we'd expect that Capital and Coast, Hutt and Tairawhiti DHBs to be hit less hard this year because they were hit hard last year.
Small number of vaccines still available - get immunised now!
Seasonal influenza immunisation is still available. However, there are only a small number of vaccine doses available so it's important to book in to get immunised now, especially as it takes a up to a fortnight for the vaccine to offer its full level of protection. Young children also need a longer time as they require two separate doses to be assured of best protection.
Free immunisation for people in eligible groups will continue while there's still vaccine available. This year's seasonal influenza vaccine contains the pandemic H1N1 virus strain and is especially recommended for those at greatest risk of complications from pandemic influenza, including women who are pregnant, very young children, severely overweight people and those with underlying medical conditions
Know how to protect yourself and your family
For some people influenza can be a very serious illness. The basic measures to protect yourself and others remain the same, but are even more important as we see more flu circulating in the community. These include:
- get your seasonal influenza immunisation, which includes protection against swine flu
- know the symptoms of influenza, which can include a high fever, headache, cough, sore throat, tiredness and generally aching all over
- phone for medical advice quickly (GP or Healthline) if you have influenza-like symptoms, including consideration of whether you need antiviral medicine treatment. Antiviral medication may lessen the severity and length of your illness, but are best started within the first 48 hours. Antiviral treatment is currently available free of charge on prescription.
- seeking early medical advice is especially important for women who are pregnant, severely overweight people and those with underlying medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart and lung disease and other conditions including autoimmune diseases
- wash and dry hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home if you are sick.
Phone early for advice
If you or your family are ill and you are concerned, or if your condition worsens, get health advice by calling your GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116.
In its 30 July 2010 update, WHO noted that overall pandemic and seasonal influenza activity remains low worldwide. However, the pandemic influenza virus is reported as increasing in Australia nad New Zealand and recently peaked in South Africa, while activity is low in Chile and Argentina and variable across parts of the tropics, particularly in several countries of the Americas and South and Southeast Asia.
WHO’s update on the progress of the pandemic is available on:http://www.who.int/csr/don/2010_07_23a/en/index.html
Please attribute this statement to Dr Mark Jacobs, Director of Public Health
For health information and advice, call Healthline 0800 611 116.
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