Community warned to get prepared for winter by getting immunised

2 May 2018

Following an extremely bad influenza season in the Northern Hemisphere, Taranaki DHB is warning its staff and the wider community to be prepared for winter by getting immunised against the flu.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jonathan Jarman, says a new strain of the flu virus recently seen overseas resulted in a significant increase in hospitalisations and ICU admissions from influenza and its complications. “This strain has also been associated with higher rates of serious illness and even death, particularly for those aged over 65 years.”

This week is Immunisation Week, the focus of which is immunisation for older people. “As we get older, diseases like influenza and shingles can have a bigger impact on our health. Both the Flu and Shingles immunisations are free for people aged 65 and over and we are strongly recommending the elderly get both in time for winter,” urges Dr Jarman.

To ensure staff and hospital patients are protected from influenza, Taranaki DHB has started its annual staff influenza vaccination campaign, with a goal of 80 per cent staff vaccination success.

Dr Jarman says “New data shows that one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza each year.  Many won’t feel sick at all, but can still pass the virus onto family members, co-workers and patients and make them seriously ill. Due to the nature of their work, healthcare workers are twice as likely to acquire influenza compared to non-healthcare.”

Taranaki DHB chief executive, Rosemary Clements, explains the importance of offering healthcare staff free flu vaccinations as part of the DHB’s duty of care. “The best form of protection against influenza is immunisation and we encourage our staff to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their family and our patients.

Over 900 staff have been vaccinated in the past fortnight, which is really positive and highlights their commitment to patient safety. We have peer and roving vaccinators in place so our staff can be vaccinated on the job.

Influenza also has a financial impact, particularly in workplaces, and can potentially overwhelm both primary care and hospital services during winter epidemics,” says Ms Clements.

Dr Jarman advises that influenza can be much more serious than  a bad cold.  “The flu is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus and can affect anyone no matter how fit, active and healthy they may be.

Symptoms can come on suddenly and include fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, cough, stomach upsets and severe fatigue. Every year people die from the complications of influenza.”

People can get their flu shot for free if they’re at high risk of getting influenza, including those aged 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic or serious health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer or severe asthma.

Dr Jarman adds, “Influenza vaccination is safe, effective and can be lifesaving for those who are the most vulnerable.”

A comprehensive list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about influenza is available on the homepage of Taranaki DHB’s website – www.tdhb.org.nz

ENDS

For more information please call

Beth Findlay-Heath
Senior Communications Advisor
021 665 017

 

Last updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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