Vac­cine urged as flu sea­son starts

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KARO­LINE TUCKEY

In­fluenza sea­son has be­gun to make its im­pact felt in the com­mu­nity and ex­perts are urg­ing peo­ple to get vac­ci­nated.

Cap­i­tal & Coast District Health Board in­fec­tious dis­eases physi­cian Tim Black­more says the num­ber of flu cases in the com­mu­nity usu­ally rises steeply from mid-to-late June, and any­one not yet vac­ci­nated should get in quickly, be­fore they catch the bug.

CCDHB fig­ures show con­sul­ta­tions for flu-like symp­toms were more than twice the na­tional av­er­age in the Welling­ton re­gion in the past few weeks, but this sea­son was un­likely to be a bad one for in­fluenza, Dr Black­more said.

The wide spread of the swine flu H1N1 virus in 2009 had pro­vided im­mu­nity to the same strain and some closely re­lated ones, he said.

‘‘ It will def­i­nitely be lower than 2009. The Welling­ton re­gion wasn’t su­per-big last year be­cause we’d had such a big year in 2009. I doubt whether it’d be big­ger than last year.’’

But re­duc­ing the virus in the com­mu­nity was a long-term fight, and vac­ci­na­tion was im­por­tant for pro­tect­ing peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to the virus, which could be deadly in ex­treme cases, he said.

‘‘We want peo­ple to be pro­tected against in­fluenza so they don’t get sick and spread it.’’

Most peo­ple in the com­mu­nity are not vul­ner­a­ble to the flu, but chil­dren and the el­derly are among those who are.

About two or three cases of in­fluenza a day were be­ing iden­ti­fied through Welling­ton Hos­pi­tal lab­o­ra­to­ries, he said, but this only rep­re­sented cases se­vere enough to be hos­pi­talised, since gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers do not rou­tinely take sam­ples in sus­pected flu cases.

‘‘ Some are chil­dren, some adults. Many are H3 [strain] and one or two in­fluenza B, and none of the [H1N1] pan­demic flu from last year.’’

Dr Black­more com­pared the risk of go­ing with­out the vac­cine to the risk of cross­ing the road with­out look­ing – you might get away with it once, but it is wiser to take pre­cau­tions like look­ing first be­cause the more you do it, the more likely you are to get hit.

‘‘It’s a very safe vac­cine. It’s com­mon to get a bit of ach­i­ness or a sore arm, but it’s very un­usual to get any­thing more than that,’’ he said.

Un­til July 31 the in­fluenza vac­ci­na­tion is free for peo­ple at risk of com­pli­ca­tions – any­one with long-term health con­di­tions, those aged over 65 and preg­nant women.

Com­mu­nity doc­tors have stocks of the vac­cine on hand, so pa­tients do not have to at­tend a spe­cial clinic. The vac­cine takes about 14 days to build up to its full ef­fect in the body, and gets more ef­fec­tive each con­sec­u­tive year a pa­tient has it, he said.

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