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Flu season declared in the Waikato

A significant increase in the number of influenza-like-illness and corresponding influenza A/B cases has led to the Waikato District Health Board’s medical officer of health urging Waikato residents to get their vaccination.

“Influenza season has started in Waikato, with a number of our general practices and hospitals treating people for influenza-like-illnesses and respiratory infections,” said Dr Felicity Dumble.

“A simple way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated. We also strongly recommend cough and cold etiquette, hand washing, using tissues and social distancing.”

People who have not yet been vaccinated should book an appointment with their general practice immediately. The influenza vaccine is also available from selected pharmacies.

“For those most at risk the vaccine is available for free, so check with your doctor or pharmacy,” said Dr Dumble.

The declaration of the start of flu season has triggered the Waikato DHB’s immunise or mask policy for staff and visitors to the DHB’s hospitals. Visitors will be asked to help protect sick and vulnerable patients this flu season by making sure they’ve had the influenza vaccine – and if they haven’t, they’ll be asked to wear a mask.

There will be masks available at the door of each of the Waikato Hospital campus wards and at the hospital entrances at Waikato, Thames, Te Kuiti, Taumarunui and Tokoroa. This also includes continuing care facilities at Rhoda Read in Morrinsville and Matariki in Te Awamutu.

Visitors who haven’t had their influenza vaccine will be asked to wear a mask to help protect their sick friends and whānau who they are visiting on wards and other vulnerable patients they may come into contact with while there.

The best protection for our vulnerable patients and their families is for staff and visitors to get vaccinated, but if they can’t, then wearing a mask also helps cut down the risk of transmission of the virus.

New data out says that four out of five people infected show no signs of influenza. These carriers could spread the virus among their family, co-workers, classmates and patients without ever realising it.

Influenza is a potentially serious viral infection that’s much worse than a cold.  Although some of the symptoms are the same, influenza is usually much more severe.

“Influenza can be severe enough to require hospital treatment, particularly in the very young, elderly, and in people who already have health problems,” said Dr Dumble.

Influenza will affect up to one in five New Zealanders every year and approximately 400 deaths each year in New Zealand are related to influenza infection.

The virus spreads easily and hand hygiene and cough etiquette are effective ways to reduce the spread, but the vaccine remains the most proven way to ward off the flu.

If you feel unwell you can help reduce the spread of the virus by:

  • Staying at home if you are unwell.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze using disposable tissues.
  • Regularly washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, and then dry your hands with a clean dry towel or paper towel.

Contact your GP or local medical centre to get the influenza vaccine.  Further information on general hygiene and influenza can be found at:

  • 0800 IMMUNE – 0800 466 863
  • Healthline – 0800 611 116
  • http://www.waikatodhb.health.nz/influenza
  • fightflu.co.nz
  • health.govt.nz/
  • surv.esr.cri.nz/virology/influenza_weekly_update.php

Who is eligible for FREE flu vaccination?

Those most at risk are eligible for FREE influenza immunisation, and include

  • adults and children with long-term health conditions www.fightflu.co.nz/
  • pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy) www.fightflu.co.nz/pregnancy
  • and people aged 65 years and older.

If you are eligible, FREE flu vaccinations are available from your GP or medical centre.

Privately funded and FREE flu vaccines are also available from some community pharmacies (for people aged 65 years and older and pregnant women). Please ask your local pharmacist.

The vaccine funded for eligible patients is – INFLUVAC®

A(H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) – like virus (new strain)

A(H3N2): an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (HsN2) – like virus

B/Brisbane/60/2008 – like virus

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