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Stop influenza in its tracks
There have been 10 cases of influenza A H1N1 notified to Waikato District Health Board’s Population Health service in the past fortnight.
Waikato DHB medical officer of health Anita Bell said Waikato health professionals are beginning to see a number of people presenting with influenza A H1N1, the strain that was circulating last year as ‘swine flu’; several of whom have been admitted to hospital.
However this will be the tip of the iceberg, says Dr Bell, as many cases will have mild symptoms and not require health intervention.
“The number of people seeing their GP with influenza-like illness is gradually increasing locally and nationally, however, numbers are still below last year's levels and are about the same rate as we saw in 2008.”
She says there are some key things the public should be aware of this winter.
“It is still not too late to have the seasonal vaccine. If you do get symptoms of influenza such as a high fever, headache, cough, sore throat, tiredness and aching all over, call your GP or Healthline 0800 611 116 to consider whether you may need antivirals. Call them also if you or your family are ill and you are concerned, or if your condition worsens.
“In particular, this is recommended for women who are pregnant, people who are severely overweight, and those with underlying medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart and lung disease and other conditions including autoimmune diseases.”
Dr Bell said there were simple infection control measures people could take to prevent the spread of influenza and other winter viruses (including those causing gastroenteritis).
These include washing and drying hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home from work or school if you are sick.
Further information is available on the Ministry of Health website www.moh.govt.nz/influenza-a-h1n1
It's not too late to get protected.
It's not too late to have your seasonal influenza immunisation – free vaccination has been extended and there are still 20,000 doses available.
It's important to get the vaccine as soon as you can, as it takes up to a fortnight for the vaccine to offer its full level of protection. Young children also need a longer time as they require two doses one month apart to be assured of best protection.
Free immunisation for people in eligible groups will continue while there's still vaccine available.
This year's seasonal influenza vaccine contains the pandemic H1N1 virus strain and is especially recommended for those at greatest risk of complications from pandemic influenza, including women who are pregnant, very young children, severely overweight people and those with underlying medical conditions.
Phone your doctor as soon as you get influenza symptoms – antivirals may lessen the severity and length of your illness.
Unlike the common cold which can develop over a number of days, symptoms of influenza come on quickly and can include a high fever, headache, cough, sore throat, tiredness and generally aching all over.
The symptoms of influenza caused by the pandemic influenza strain can be treated with antivirals which are best started within the first 24-48 hours of symptoms.
Call your GP or Healthline as soon as you get symptoms of influenza to consider whether you need antivirals, which are available, free of charge on prescription.
Wash and dry your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home if you're sick.
We can all help reduce the spread of influenza and colds by washing and drying hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home from work or school if you are sick.
Date: 21 July 2010