Waikato people are especially vulnerable to deadly ‘flu strains but are slow to take advantage of the available vaccination.
The serious viruses circulating this winter are: H3N2 which killed six children in Australia last year, the H1N1 a variant of which caused the Spanish flu outbreak that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide in 1918, and a B-strain flu known as B/Florida.
Waikato Primary Health community project manager Ngahuia Herangi believes this year’s flu season could be much more serious than those of recent years.
“It’s really important that people realise just how serious a dose of flu can be, and that we need to have coverage of at least 80% of our population to prevent outbreaks. It’s such a simple and safe option, and it can have enormous benefits to the community to have healthy people over winter.”
With the cooling weather and winter approaching it is important for people to get immunised as soon as possible. Especially at risk are those who live in poorly insulated homes or in large households due to the highly infectious nature of the flu virus.
“People often confuse flu with a bad cold; it’s not. The flu is a very serious illness which can leave people unable to do anything at all for a week or ten days, and for those who are over 65 or have chronic illnesses, flu can be deadly.”
Ms Herangi says the immunisation is free to those Waikato people who are considered most vulnerable, such as those over 65 years of age and chronic disease sufferers.
“People with heart, renal, respiratory or immune disease or diabetes are especially at risk and it won’t cost them anything to get the immunisation.”
Ms Herangi says pneumonia is a significant risk for flu sufferers, and hospitalisation is almost always required which is a stressful experience for anyone, young or old.
“Flu is highly infectious, and contrary to what so many people believe, being fit and healthy is not enough to keep you from getting the flu.”
Immunisations are free for high risk groups until June 30th. Immunity is achieved in two weeks from receiving the immunisation and lasts for 12 months.
“Even for those who are not eligible for free immunisation, it’s a small price to pay to keep yourself and your family safe over winter.”