Influenza: Don’t get it, don’t give it
Influenza is caused by different strains of influenza viruses. Around one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza or ‘flu’ each year. Influenza can be anywhere, and is highly contagious.
Influenza is more than just a ‘bad cold’ – it is a serious illness that can put anyone in hospital or even kill them, including young and healthy people. Symptoms may vary with age, immune status and health of the individual and include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, cough, fatigue and generally feeling miserable. The fever and body aches can last for up to 5 days, and the cough and fatigue may last for two or more weeks.
You may have influenza and not feel unwell – but you can still pass it on and make other people very sick. It is important you do not pass the flu onto those who are particularly vulnerable.You can reduce the spread of influenza by:
- washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds and drying them for 20 seconds – or using an alcohol-based hand rub;
- covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough – and putting tissues in a lined bin;
- not sharing drinks with others; and
- avoiding crowded places.
Stay at home from work, school or preschool if you have the flu so that you don’t spread it to others. Even a mild case of influenza can disrupt your everyday activities with family, friends, community and work.
Pregnant women and their babies can suffer serious consequences as a result of influenza.
Older people and those with certain medical conditions are also more likely to be affected by the flu. This is because influenza can make an existing medical condition worse (including asthma and diabetes), or increase the risk of complications such as pneumonia heart failure, and worsening asthma.
Influenza vaccination is FREE for those who need it most
Immunisation is the best protection against influenza. Your symptoms are less likely to be severe if you still catch influenza after being immunised.
Get immunised to stop the spread of influenza around your community. Even if you don’t feel sick, you could still be infected with influenza and pass it on to others.
Getting immunised each year as early as possible before winter hits gives the best protection, and protection can last until the next year.
You need to get the flu vaccine each year as protection from the previous vaccination lessens over time, and the flu strains in the vaccine often change each year. Over a million New Zealanders get the annual immunisation against influenza.
The influenza vaccine is safe, effective and cannot give you “the flu”.
Access to the influenza vaccine prioritised due to a shortage
Update: 7th June 2019
The Ministry of Health has been informed by PHARMAC of a shortage of influenza vaccines. This is due to the distribution of around 1.26 million doses of the influenza vaccine already this winter. This is close to last year’s all-time record of 1.3 million doses for the entire season.
There is now very limited stock left due to continued high demand for the influenza vaccine.
The Ministry of Health is asking General Practices and Pharmacists to only vaccinate those who are eligible for free vaccines – to ensure that those most in need can get the influenza vaccine.
The seasonal influenza vaccine is FREE for the following eligible people from Monday 1st April 2019:
- Pregnant women – at any stage or trimester in the pregnancy
- Anyone aged 65 years or over
- Children aged from 6 months to four years who have had a stay in hospital for asthma or other breathing problems or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
- Anyone under 65 years with one or more of the following medical conditions:
- Cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease
- Chronic respiratory diseases
- Cancer, excluding basal and squamous skin cancers if not invasive
- Other conditions (such as chronic renal disease, autoimmune diseases, transplant recipients, neuromuscular and central nervous systems diseases, and haemoglobinopathies).