Health experts at the National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG) say Kiwis should make sure they get an influenza vaccination before they head off for the school holidays.
Clusters of influenza cases have been reported in a few areas already and, although activity overall is still at about normal inter-seasonal levels in New Zealand, the experts say it is likely to increase as we head into winter.
“As people gather together in groups on holiday they are more likely to spread the influenza virus. So it’s a good idea to immunise now for best protection. It can take up to 14 days from vaccination to build immunity,” advises Dr Lance Jennings, virus expert and NISG spokesperson.
Dr Jennings says the A (H1N1) virus strain is increasing in Queensland – a popular destination for families at this time of year.
“This particular virus can lead to serious complications for younger, previously healthy people, but the good news is it is covered by the 2014 vaccine. So we strongly advise people to talk to their doctor or nurse soon to arrange a vaccination, which is free for many people.”
Influenza vaccinations are free for New Zealanders from a doctor or nurse until the end of July if you are in one of these groups:
- People aged 65 and over
- Anyone under 65 years of age (including children) with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers
- All pregnant women
- Children aged from six months and up to five years of age who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
Additional information about Influenza and immunisation:
The 2014 seasonal influenza vaccines for New Zealand include two new World Health Organization recommended strains based upon the strains most likely to spread and cause illness in people this season. These are not new or novel viruses. The composition is:
- an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus;
- an A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)-like virus;
- a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.
Contrary to a widely-held myth, you cannot get influenza from the vaccine, as it does not contain any live virus. Occasionally some people, when vaccinated, are incubating another viral illness coincidentally but their symptoms are not caused by the vaccine.
Influenza or ‘flu can be a serious illness – it’s more than a “bad cold”. Anyone can catch it – even the fit and healthy.
Media contact: Brenda Saunders, NISG, Mob: 021 777 171.