With serious cases of swine flu (H1N1) already confirmed in the North Island, Waikato DHB medical officer of health Dr Felicity Dumble is encouraging Waikato residents to get their flu vaccination as soon as possible.
Eight cases of swine flu, the same strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, have struck Hawke’s Bay since February. Three patients are in intensive care and one in a coma.
“As highlighted by these cases in Hawke’s Bay, and some in South Canterbury, influenza is not only a winter illness. It circulates all year round and can be serious,” Dr Dumble said.
“The good news is that the swine flu strain is covered by the 2014 flu vaccine.”
Dr Dumble said getting immunised now, before cases of the flu increase over the colder months, will give Waikato residents the best chance of being protected.
“It takes two weeks to develop immunity following vaccination so being vaccinated before the season starts will gain you the most benefit,” Dr Dumble said .
The focus of this year’s seasonal influenza immunisation programme is pregnant women and their newborn babies. Influenza vaccine has been used for many years in pregnant women, with no safety concerns, and can be given in any trimester.
“Pregnant women are at particularly high risk of severe complications and death from influenza because of the changes that occur to their immune and other systems during pregnancy,” Dr Dumble said.
“Influenza immunisation in pregnancy also offers protection to the newborn baby during the first few months of life.”
Influenza immunisation is free from a GP or nurse until July 31, 2014 for New Zealanders at high risk of complications – pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone under 65 years of age, including children six months and older, with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.
Other people can receive influenza vaccinations at surgeries and some pharmacies for a small charge. Many employers provide free vaccination to their employees.
As well as getting an influenza vaccination, NISG and national DHBs note protection is heightened by:
- Washing and drying hands often
- Staying away from people who are sick
- Staying away from work or school if unwell
- Covering coughs and sneezes
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