Influenza: Don’t get it, don’t give it
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 of influenza include a cough, sore throat, headache, fever, body aches and pains, fatigue and generally feeling miserable. 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. 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.
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.
Handwashing is an important and effective way of reducing the spread of influenza.
Influenza vaccination is FREE for those who need it most
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 your protection 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”.
The seasonal influenza vaccine is FREE for the following eligible people:
- Pregnant women – at any stage or trimester in the pregnancy
- Anyone aged 65 years or over
- Children aged four years and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness 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).
The Canterbury DHB has also made flu vaccinations free for all under 18 year olds in Kaikoura and Hurunui districts.
You can still get the influenza vaccine from your general practice or local pharmacy for a small cost if you are not eligible for a free vaccine.