News & Events

Influenza: Don’t get it, don’t give it

29 March 2017

Around one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza or ‘flu’ each year. Influenza can be anywhere, and is highly contagious. You many not feel sick at all, but can still pass the flu on to others.

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, headache, fever or chills, body aches and pains, fatigue and generally feeling miserable.

It is important you do not pass influenza onto those who are particularly vulnerable to influenza. 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.

Handwashing is an important and effective way of reducing the spread of influenza.

Influenza vaccination is provided 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 to eligible people who meet the following criteria:

  1. Pregnant women – at any stage or trimester in the pregnancy
  2. Anyone under 65 years with one or more of the following medical conditions:
    • Cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease
    • Chronic respiratory diseases
    • Diabetes
    • Cancer, excluding basal and squamous skin cancers if not invasive
    • Other conditions (e.g. chronic renal disease, autoimmune disease, immune suppression, human immunodeficiency virus, transplant recipients, neuromuscular and central nervous systems diseases, haemoglobinopathies, children on long term aspirin)
  3. Anyone aged 65 years or over
  4. Children aged four years and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

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.

Visit the Fight the Flu website for more information.

Boil water notices still in place for many Kaikoura residents

8 February 2017

Kaikoura residents should remain vigilant in preventing gastro bugs, with the risk from damaged water infrastructure still affecting many in the district.

People in the Kaikoura District are being reminded to:

  • continue to boil their drinking water, unless they’ve been told by the Kaikoura District Council that they no longer need to,
  • wash their hands and
  • keep out of any contaminated waterways.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey says infrastructure damage from the 14th November earthquake, means boil water notices still apply to five of the eight council water supplies servicing the Kaikoura district.

“The only council water supplies safe to drink are Kaikoura township, neighbouring Ocean Ridge, and Kincaid,” Dr Humphrey says. “Boil water notices affect more than a thousand Kaikoura residents as well as anyone visiting these areas. These supplies are not secure and remain at risk of contamination.”

Dr Humphrey also says anyone outside the safe to drink areas must boil their water, or get their water tested if on a private supply (if they haven’t already). “Private water supplies must be tested quarterly, as well as after heavy rainfall and following any significant earthquakes.”

People living in or visiting the following five Kaikoura District Council areas need to boil their water:

  • Oaro (approximately 400 residents);
  • Fernleigh (approximately 150 residents);
  • Kaikoura Suburban (approximately 50 residents);
  • Peketa (approximately 400 residents) – this supply suffered significant damage and is unsafe to drink unless boiled; and
  • East Coast Rural servicing Clarence (approximately 150 residents).

Other ways to prevent gastro bugs in the Kaikoura region

Everyone should always remain vigilant about hand washing too, Dr Humphrey says. “It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly to prevent gastro infections such as Norovirus, which can spread quickly across a community.”

Dr Humphrey also warns people to not swim , surf or consume seafood and shellfish collected in the area where Lyell Creek discharges into the ocean.

“Advice from the Kaikoura District Council on the state of wastewater infrastructure indicates people should stay away from the Lyell Creek area until further notice.”

The sewer system has been re-established along Hawthorne Road (between the bridge and Mt-Fyffe Road), and on Mt-Fyffe Road (between Hawthorne and Totara Lane). People can use their toilet and do their washing. The remaining residents without operational sewer will be advised as soon as the service is re-established.

Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (8th February 2017).

 

Smokefree Social Housing Toolkit: a guide for creating smokefree policies

4 February 2017

SF Social Housing ToolkitCommunity and Public Health (as a member of Smokefree Canterbury) has developed a Toolkit to assist social housing providers to implement smokefree policies in social housing settings.

Improving population health has increasingly become a shared goal across many sectors including social housing. A smokefree social housing policy can result in win-wins for tenants, housing providers, and the wider community.

The Smokefree Social Housing Toolkit draws on international research as well as on Community and Public Health’s experience working with the Christchurch City Council to implement their smokefree social housing initiative.

The Toolkit includes:

  • an evidence-based rationale for smokefree social housing, and
  • guidance on policy development and implementation (including legal perspectives, organisational philosophy, leadership, and practical policy implementation).

A novel component of the Toolkit is a schematic that brings the concepts of restrictiveness and support together. The schematic illustrates how different levels of restrictiveness and support might be practically combined to form innovative, comprehensive policy styles that can be adapted for any situation or environment.

The online version of the Toolkit is interactive – providing a number of downloadable templates, checklists, survey tools, a staff training PowerPoint presentation, and links to other resources. The full Toolkit is also available as a printable PDF booklet.

Check for health warnings before going near waterways

3 February 2017

Swimming Water QualityRecreational water users are being reminded to avoid contact with some Canterbury and South Canterbury waterways.

Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says health warnings remain in place where there’s potentially toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in a number of areas around the regions.

“Make sure you check the health warnings for toxic algae before going near any waterways. And if in doubt, keep out.” Dr Humphrey says.

Harmful effects of toxic algae on humans and animals

Algal blooms can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. People should avoid contact with the water where algal blooms are present until further notice. The algae is particularly dangerous for dogs.

“Animals that show signs of illness after coming into contact with toxic algae should be taken to a vet immediately. Symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning in dogs include panting, lethargy, muscle tremors, twitching and convulsions – which usually occur within 30 minutes of exposure.”

Dr Humphrey says people who come into contact with toxic algae can also experience unpleasant symptoms. “Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips. If you experience any of these symptoms visit your doctor immediately and please let your doctor know if you have had contact with the water,” Dr Humphrey says.

People should never drink water from a waterway where a health warning is in place and they should also avoid eating fish and shellfish taken from areas where warnings are in place. “Boiling the water does not remove the toxin. If fish are eaten, remove the gut and liver and wash in clean water.”

Environment Canterbury Chief Scientist Dr Tim Davie says it is not possible to monitor every reach of every stream and river in Canterbury so we concentrate on sites where we know people swim. “We monitor 52 popular freshwater swimming sites in Canterbury and similar number of beaches; the results are shown on the Environment Canterbury and the LAWA websites (Land, Air, Water Aotearoa),” Dr Davie says.

“If you’re swimming at non-monitored sites then we encourage you to check the stream bottom for what look like black mats.  If there are significant black mats and particularly if bits are breaking off then you should not swim or allow dogs to the site.”

Facts about cyanobacteria

  • The algae occur naturally but can increase rapidly during warmer months.
  • Avoid all contact if the water is cloudy, discoloured, or has small globules suspended in it.
  • Not all cyanobacteria blooms are visible to the naked eye and toxins can persist after the blooms disappear.
  • Cyanobacteria concentrations can change quickly with changing environmental conditions such as wind.
  • Avoid contact with the water if a health warning is in place.

Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (2nd February 2017).

New Zealanders urged to pace themselves as aftershocks continue

24 November 2016

The All Right? campaign is urging those affected by the current earthquake sequence to take extra care of themselves. The campaign was established to help Cantabrians recover from the emotional impact of the greater Christchurch earthquakes.

All Right? strategist Ciaran Fox says the current aftershocks will be having an impact on many people’s mental health. “Going through a disaster takes a toll on mental health. With each aftershock, anxiety can increase. We need to take care of ourselves and each other to prevent more serious mental distress emerging.”

Ciaran Fox says looking after your mental health is crucial. “It’s easy to dismiss the need to take time to look after yourself when you’re dealing with a crisis but the reality is it’s even more important to do so, so you cope better and don’t run out of steam.”

Ciaran Fox says there are simple things we can all do to improve our mental health – even in times of stress. “Take time to think about your energy levels. If you are feeling tired or stressed, consider ways you can recharge your batteries. Things like doing some exercise or listening to music can help pick you up – just think about what makes you feel good and take even ten minutes to do it.”

Pacing yourself is also important. “Focus on the things that are most important to you, such as family or whānau and your health. Prioritising tasks can help take pressure off yourself,” says Ciaran Fox.

“Also try and focus on the things that you can control. There are a lot of things, like road closures and broken infrastructure, that individuals can’t do much about right now. It is ok to acknowledge those things but focusing on them too much can simply leave you feeling overwhelmed.”

Ciaran Fox says routines can also help deal with uncertainty and constant change. “Try and maintain your daily or weekly routine. In a lot of cases this will be impossible due to things like school closures, so create temporary routines where you can – things like having dinner around the camp table at a particular time each day.”

Above all, Ciaran Fox says it’s important to remember that there is extra support available for those who need it. “It takes time to recover emotionally from the effects of disaster but remember you are not alone. The best place to get help is the Earthquake Support Line (0800 777 846). Getting help early can help you cope better and prevent more serious mental distress from emerging.”

Some practical tips available on the All Right? website.

Source: All Right? media release (23rd November 2016).

Page last updated: 23/02/2016

Copyright © 2017, Community & Public Health, Site by Wired