Time is running out to get a free flu vaccination for those who are eligible.
Act now and avoid flu putting a dent in your spring plans but remember free flu vaccinations are only available to those who are eligible until the end of this month August 31.
Dr Ramon Pink, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says Canterbury should be proud to be top of the flu immunisation stakes again this year, but we mustn't take our eye off the ball.
"Influenza can be particularly severe if you are pregnant, older than 65 or have long-term health conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or mental illness such as depression. For these groups the vaccination is free," Dr Pink says.
"In Canterbury it's also free for children from six months to their eighteenth birthday – a strategy that protects those vulnerable under-fives, as well as helping prevent the spread."
Dr Pink says it's not uncommon for flu numbers to peak late in August or even September.
"If you haven't taken steps to protect yourself, you are still at risk. Although seasonal flu is associated with winter you can get it at any time of year, especially if you travel. The time to get immunised is before that can happen."
People who are fit and healthy are still at risk from influenza, Dr Pink says.
"All it takes is for an infected person to cough or sneeze near you or for you to touch something they have touched.
"Health professionals recommends everyone gets the vaccine every year. If you don't qualify for a free flu vaccination, it will typically cost $30-50 at your general practice or in some pharmacies.
"If you don't think you need to protect yourself, then do it for your whānau and community – if you can't get it, you can't give it. Make getting the flu vaccine your contribution to ensuring everybody has a healthy spring and a summer to remember."
National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG) spokesperson and general practitioner, Dr Nikki Turner, says it is still worthwhile being immunised.
"Influenza is much more than a 'bad cold' - it is a serious disease that can lead to complications and can be fatal especially for people with ongoing medical conditions," Dr Turner says.
"We are now seeing many cases of influenza on the North Island and on the West Coast of the South Island in particular. Sadly, people have died and many more have been hospitalised with influenza symptoms this year but perhaps sadder still is that it is so easy to prevent by getting immunised. It's as simple as a phone call to your general practice team to make an appointment."
Influenza symptoms can develop suddenly. Within just a few hours symptoms can progress from feeling a bit unwell, to being too ill to do much other than go to bed.
"A high fever, headache, a dry cough and other symptoms usually last seven to 10 days but to get back to your normal energy levels can often take longer still."
For free information about flu, call the Canterbury fluline on 0800 37 30 37 or visit www.fluinfo.co.nz For any health advice call your normal general practice team number night or day - outside normal hours a registered nurse will be able to advise you.
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