Don’t let the flu get you
This year New Zealand’s free influenza immunisation programme could have a global impact.
This is the first year of a major international five-year flu study being funded by the US Government’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and conducted by New Zealand scientists in the Auckland region.
The “SHIVERS” (Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance) project aims to help improve international knowledge prevention and treatment of flu by looking at what proportion of the population gets flu each year, which groups are hardest hit, how often flu is the underlying cause of death, and how effective flu vaccines are among certain groups of the population.
Influenza (or ‘the flu’) is caused by three types of influenza virus – A, B and C that infect the respiratory system. Influenza is contagious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with an infected person or by touching a contaminated surface.
Most people suffer from a high fever, tiredness and may require bed rest. Some may also suffer shivering attacks, muscular pains, headaches, a dry cough and vomiting. Complications, like pneumonia can follow.
Flu is more than a bad cold - even a moderate case could mean time off work, activities or study for a week or more. For some people it can lead to serious illness and even death.
Flu immunisation is offered free every year to New Zealanders who are at highest risk of severe complications - pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone with ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.
Influenza vaccine is only free for eligible groups from a doctor or nurse until July 31.
Vaccine is available to everyone else for a small charge through GPs, some pharmacists and other immunisation providers.
If you had the flu vaccine last year it’s worth getting immunised again as immunity reduces over time. This will ensure you get the best protection from flu over winter.
For more information go to www.fightflu.co.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE.