Winter flu still on the rise
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 11:54a.m.
By Imogen Crispe
Flu rates are hitting their yearly high as time runs out for people to get a free flu vaccine.
The North Island is heading for its influenza peak, while the Canterbury area has been suffering an outbreak.
Virus expert and National Influenza Specialist Group spokesman Dr Lance Jennings says last week there was a substantial increase in flu cases seen in Canterbury, and numbers in Auckland and Waitemata are also starting to increase.
He says usually areas will have about six weeks of elevated levels, and Canterbury has already had three weeks, so numbers there should now start to decline.
Dr Jennings says June is often the peak month for influenza, but it is most prevalent during all of winter.
“The colder temperatures, the dryer interior temperatures support the transmission of viruses [and] people are spending more time inside in closer contact.”
He reminds people that the flu should not be taken lightly.
“The main thing is the awareness that influenza is a serious disease.”
Symptoms of this year’s strain of flu include a fever, followed by a developing cough as well as wheezing and sore throats. Affected people will need to spend two or three days in bed, Dr Jennings says.
He says this year the people who are mainly catching influenza are those aged 20 to 60.
Older groups are able to get the influenza vaccine for free, and Dr Jennings says many people are taking advantage of that.
He says it is important for people to get the flu vaccine, especially those who are eligible to get it for free.
In healthy adults he says the vaccine can be up to 70 to 90 percent effective, depending on how close the vaccine is to the virus which is circulating.
Until July 31, eligible people including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone with on-going health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers can get the vaccine for free.
Dr Jennings says these people are more likely to develop pneumonia or have to be hospitalised if they catch the flu.
“Underlying medical conditions can get worse,” he says.
Those not eligible will have to pay a fee to get the vaccine from their GP.
There are also other things people can do to reduce the spread of influenza and avoid catching it.
People need to wash their hands regularly, especially before meals. People who already have the flu need to stay away from work or school to avoid passing it on, and cover coughs and sneezes.
If one member of a family catches the flu, Dr Jennings recommends the whole family stays away from other people to avoid spreading it.
For people who have the flu, there are anti-viral medicines available from doctors.
“If taken early they are very effective at lessening the seriousness,” Dr Jennings says.
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17/07/2012 7:26:03 p.m.
IF the flu gets into the chest that's when the antibiotics need to be used to clear the infection up asap especially for the elderly and vulnerable.
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