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Last chance for free flu immunisationKiwis eligible for free flu immunisation have less than 21 days left to be vaccinated before the Government-subsidised campaign ends this year on July 31.
The National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG) says that, so far, close to a million New Zealanders have already had a flu vaccination this year.
Anyone who wants to be immunised against influenza after July 31 will have to pay a small charge to get it from their doctor or nurse.
Flu immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of more severe disease and complications, 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. Canterbury residents also qualify for free vaccination if they are aged between six months and 18 years old.
It’s estimated more than 400 people die each year in New Zealand directly or indirectly because of influenza. Influenza can make other conditions, such as breathing or heart problems, even worse.
Influenza usually has a sudden onset of illness, high fever, headache, a dry cough and commonly lasts seven to ten days. It can be much worse than a bad cold.
“Even though we’re seeing a rise in influenza like illness around the country, it’s not too late to be vaccinated and it’s still your best form of protection against influenza,” says virus expert and NISG spokesperson, Dr Lance Jennings.
“Influenza immunisation cannot give you the flu because it does not contain live viruses. There can be side effects, and these usually disappear within one or two days without treatment.”
Parts of New Zealand have been hit in increasing numbers by the A (H3N2) influenza virus and other respiratory viruses in recent weeks. Dr Jennings says while this virus can be particularly severe for the elderly and those with an ongoing medical condition, it can also affect others severely too.
The current flu vaccine covers three influenza A and B strains circulating in New Zealand, including the A (H3N2) virus.
There have been noticeable increases in influenza-like illness in Waitemata (103.2 per 100,000) and Auckland (96.8 per 100,000), and activity above baseline is occurring in Canterbury, South Canterbury, Capital and Coast, Waikato, Taranaki and Hawke’s Bay Districts.
As well as getting a flu vaccination there are other ways you can protect yourself and your family/whanau from flu including:
Seek medical advice early if you are concerned, especially if you are pregnant or have an underlying medical condition.
For further information go to www.fightflu.co.nz or www.health.govt.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.
Date: 10 July 2012
Media contact: Brenda Saunders 021 777 171 or 09 536 6753