Kiwis eligible for free flu immunisation have another month to get themselves protected from the disease which can see people out of action for weeks.
The Ministry of Health is extending the nation-wide free seasonal flu vaccination scheme for eligible people to the end of August.
Health Minister Tony Ryall says the announcement comes as the country sees an increase in influenza-like illnesses.
“New Zealand is now well and truly into the winter flu season and the latest information from the Ministry of Health is that the number and timing of people presenting with flu is not abnormal. Last winter was a particularly quiet year for flu.”
Tony says DHB’s across the country have had a spike in the numbers of people with flu but he has been told their levels appear to be plateauing.
“At this stage, the strains identified are covered by this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. We have stock of around 20,000 vaccinations within the current budget, and we are advised that additional doses would be readily available.
“I have checked with DHBs around the country and they’ve confirmed all hospitals have plans to deal with winter flu pressures.”
He says the most important thing people can do is adopt the public health messages intended to slow the spread of flu:
· Cover coughs and sneezes
· Wash your hands
· If you’re unwell stay at home and contact your GP
“These messages will feature on television and in newspapers over the next couple of weeks.
“Health officials will continue to keep a close eye on flu levels over the coming weeks and keep the public informed.”
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.
“Influenza can make other conditions, such as breathing or heart problems, even worse,” says Medical Officer of Health for Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service, Dr Jim Miller.
“Influenza is a potentially serious viral infection that’s much worse than a cold. Influenza comes on suddenly with a fever or chills, sore throat, dry cough, headaches, fatigue, body aches and pains.”
Jim says people need to seek medical advice if they are concerned about their health.