Still time to get immunised against flu

7 August 2015

There is still time to get immunised against influenza says Margot McLean, Tairawhiti District Health  Medical Officer of Health. Recently released figures show that Tairāwhiti had the highest consultation rate (486.4 per 100,000 or 5 cases) for influenza-like illness last week.

“The apparently extremely high rates in Tairāwhiti are based on very small numbers, so we can’t rely on those rates as suggesting we are experiencing anything abnormal for this time of year. Flu rates are higher than the last two years, but similar to those seen in 2012. But rates may not have peaked yet.”

Dr Johan Peters. Head of Tairāwhiti’s Emergency Department says “We are seeing the normal number of patients in suffering from respiratory illness at this time of year. The numbers coming through are not putting undue strain on our resources and are quite within our capacity to cope.”

Influenza is a serious virus and can be life-threatening, especially for people who already have existing serious health conditions. "People at risk of complications are advised to get vaccinated if they have not done so already. Vaccinations are available until the end of August,” says Dr McLean.

“Symptoms of influenza come on suddenly and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, cough and stomach upsets. People who are unwell with influenza should stay away from work and school, and seek medical advice if they are concerned, either by contacting Healthline or their medical centre. It is important that people with flu symptoms avoid visiting people in hospital or rest-homes, as they could spread the infection to people who are at risk of serious complications.”

While immunisation is the best protection 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.