Influenza


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influenza symptoms table

Am I eligible for a free flu vaccination?

For adults and children with long-term health conditions, pregnant women and people aged 65 years and older, influenza can be an especially serious illness. For this reason the influenza immunisation is provided FREE to

Pregnant women (any trimester) Click here for resources
Anyone aged 65 years or over
Anyone under 65 years with those who:

  • are pregnant
  • regularly use an asthma preventer
  • have diabetes
  • have heart disease
  • have kidney problems
  • have any cancer (excluding basal and squamous skin cancers if not invasive)
  • have another serious medical condition
See the full list here.

If you do not have one of these eligible conditions, you can still benefit from an influenza immunisation available, at a small cost.

Influenza Myth Busters

There are many myths about the influenza vaccination. We have outlined the most common ones below.

Influenza Vaccinations for Pregnant Women

Click on the resources below to download.

Avoiding the flu during pregnancy poster:

Flu frequently asked questions for pregnant women.

Avoiding the flu during pregnancy brochure:

For all these resources and more go to www.influenza.org.nz/resources

Influenza Facts

Influenza is different from the common cold and includes the following symptoms:

  • A fever greater or equal to 38°C
  • At least one respiratory symptom such as a cough, sore throat or nasal symptoms such as a runny nose
  • At least one systemic symptom such as a headache, myalgia (aches/pains), sweats/chills (feeling feverish) or lethargy (fatigue).

You can spread the flu to people, including your family/whanau and friends, who are at most risk of complications.

Influenza, commonly called the 'flu', can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal and can infect up to 1 in 5 of us every year. While general health affects the severity of an infection, the influenza virus is contagious and anyone can become infected.

Up to 400 deaths each year in New Zealand are related to influenza infection.

The strains of influenza virus that reach New Zealand each year are usually different from the season before. Although New Zealand had a relatively mild influenza season in 2011, this may not be the case in 2012. The virulence of strains can vary from year to year or a new strain can emerge to which people are not immune.

Annual immunisation is recommended for two reasons:

  • protection lessens over time
  • each year influenza can be caused by different influenza strains, that may not be represented in the previous year’s vaccine

Immunity develops after you have been exposed to a particular strain of the virus through infection or immunisation. Influenza immunisation prepares and boosts your immune system to help you fight the influenza viruses expected to be circulating each year.

Seasonal influenza vaccinations are recognised as being the single most effective way of reducing the impact of seasonal influenza – especially for those most at risk of complications. This can be particularly true for the elderly.

Stop the flu before it gets you. Get immunised. Don’t spread the flu to you family and friends. Immunisation may be FREE for you. Ask your doctor or nurse today.

Influenza Frequently Asked Questions:

What is influenza?
Influenza is caused by three types of influenza virus – A, B and C that infect the respiratory system.  Influenza is contagious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with an infected person or by touching a contaminated surface.

Influenza virus can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal. Infection with the influenza virus may lead to a stay in hospital for any age group but particularly if you are very young, elderly, or have an ongoing medical condition. Influenza can make an existing medical condition such as asthma or diabetes, a lot worse.

Influenza continues to be a major threat to public health world wide because of its ability to spread rapidly through populations as epidemics.

How can I tell the difference between a cold and influenza?
Influenza can be a much more serious illness than a common cold.Influenza can leave you ill for up to 10 days. Most people suffer from a high fever, tiredness and may require bed rest. Some may also suffer shivering attacks, muscular pains, headaches, a dry cough, vomiting and diarrhea.Complications, like pneumonia can follow. Immunisation against influenza is the best protection.

A cold has much less severe symptoms and generally lasts 2-4 days. High fever is less common and shivering attacks and severe headaches are rare. Muscular pains and vomiting are infrequent and the cough is less severe.There is currently no vaccine available for colds.

Influenza virus is different from a cold virus. A cold virus infects only the nose, throat and upper chest and only lasts for a few days.

Can the influenza vaccine give you influenza (the flu)?
No. You cannot get influenza from the vaccine. The vaccine is made from inactivated virus that is broken apart so that it cannot cause an infection. Many people confuse colds with influenza. Many other viruses are also present throughout the year, so people may catch a different respiratory infection with ‘flu-like’ symptoms and unfairly blame the influenza vaccine or influenza virus. Sometimes people can catch influenza before the vaccine has had time to generate protection (about two weeks).

Why do healthy people need influenza immunisation?
Being fit and healthy will not protect you from influenza. Influenza spreads easily and by immunising against influenza you can protect yourself and lessen the chance of bringing it home to a baby, older relative or someone with a medical condition who could develop serious complications.

When should people get vaccinated?
Get immunised as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available (vaccine is usually available from March). It takes up to two weeks to develop immunity. Ideally, you should be vaccinated before the main influenza activity in May to September. High risk individuals can be immunised any time during the influenza season, but the vaccine is only free until the end of July.

Where can I get the vaccination?
a) Eligible people can get a free vaccination from their General Practice, and it is usually the practice nurse who administers the vaccine. The vaccine is injected into the upper arm. For children 6 months to 15 months, it is injected into the upper thigh.

b) Those not eligible for free vaccination: influenza vaccination is available from your local General Practice, Accident and Medical Centre or workplace Occupational Health Service. Please contact your provider regarding vaccination charges.

Can the vaccination be given to children?
Yes. The vaccination is approved for children 6 months and over and is especially recommended if they have ongoing medical condition such as being on a preventive medication for asthma. Check with your doctor for details.

Can influenza vaccine be given to pregnant women?
Yes. (See all pregnancy resources here)

The seasonal influenza vaccine is strongly recommended for women who will be pregnant during the influenza season. Where possible, vaccines are usually given only in the second and third trimesters because vaccination with the influenza vaccine has been shown to be highly beneficial for pregnant women and their unborn babies. New Zealand is not alone in this recommendation, influenza vaccination for all pregnant women is currently recommended by health authorities in the USA, Australia and many European countries. Immunisation is free for pregnant women wishing to have the influenza vaccine.

Experience from previous seasonal influenza outbreaks showed that pregnant women are at greater risk from complications associated with influenza.

There are a range of changes that occur during pregnancy which may put pregnant women at higher risk of complications frominfluenza. These include changes to the lung function including decreased lung capacity; increased cardiac output and oxygen consumption, and changes to the immune response.

Because of the above changes, pregnant women with existing medical conditions are at even greater risk of severe influenza-related illness. When pregnancy is superimposed on high-risk conditions such as asthma or diabetes mellitus, influenza infection associated illness is 3-4 times greater than for non-pregnant women.

Maternal influenza infection has been associated with an increased risk of maternal hospitalisation and other illnesses. A small number of these women and babies die.

Vaccination of pregnant women against influenza has been shown to decrease the incidence of influenza in their newborn babies. Influenza in young infants often prompts hospitalisation and can predispose infants to bacterial pneumonia or otitis media (Middle ear infections).

For more frequently Asked Questions about Influenza Vaccination and Pregnancy visit www.fightflu.co.nz

Can infuenza vaccine be given to a woman who is breast-feeding?
Yes. The vaccine may be safely given to woman who is breast-feeding.

How do they know which influenza virus will hit New Zealand?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes influenza very seriously. Each year the WHO Information Surveillance Network studies the different strains of influenza and monitors their movements around the globe. They then decide which strains of the virus are likely to emerge in different parts of the world and develop vaccinations for them.

Which strains of the influenza virus are covered by this year’s vaccine (2017)?
The influenza virus has many types. Each year the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes recommendations for the strains that are in the influenza vaccine and the strains that should be circulating around New Zealand. This year’s vaccine includes:

  • A (H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) - like virus   (new strain)
  • A (H3N2): an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2) - like virus    
  • B/Brisbane/60/2008 - like virus        

How safe is the vaccine?
The vaccine cannot give you influenza as it only contains fragments of the virus. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to make antibodies that protect against circulating viruses. Most people have no reaction to the vaccine. Occasionally the site where the vaccination was given is red or sore for a day or two. Some people may feel unwell for a day or two. These are normal responses to the immunisation. Severe reactions such as anaphylaxis are rare and occur in one to two cases per million vaccines given.

How effective is the vaccine for healthy adults?
Influenza vaccination is about 80% effective in preventing infection with influenza A and B viruses in healthy adults under 65 years of age, when there is a good match between vaccine and circulating influenza strains.

How long after vaccination does it take to start providing protection?
It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to start providing protection.

Does the vaccination contain thiomersal or mercury?
No. It does not contain thiomersal (or any other mercury product).

Ask your doctor or nurse about influenza immunisation
Make sure you give yourself and your family the best protection against influenza.
Or for more information phone 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or Health Line 0800 611 116.

National Influenza Strategy Group’s website           
World Health Organization’s Pandemic H1N1 2009 website
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
European Center for Disease Prevention and Control
www.health.govt.nz

Health resource phone numbers:

Free 24-hour health advice - call Healthline on 0800 611 116
Ring the immunisation advice line at 0800 IMMUNE (466863)

 

 

 

Last updated: Wednesday, May 3, 2017

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