Beating the winter flu bug
As someone with a master’s degree in microbiology who completed her thesis on tuberculosis vaccinations, CHB mayor Alex Walker considers herself well informed when it comes to the benefits of the flu jab.
“I see it as responsible decision to protect not only myself, but others. I have a lot of people around me — and I have small children too,” said Ms Walker, who received her vaccination at Unichem Pharmacy in Waipukurau last week.
The mayor got her flu jab as Hawke’s Bay health officials launched Beat the Bugs, a campaign urging people to get immunised now before the winter season, to give themselves the best protection from a flu strain that severely affected communities during the northern hemisphere winter.
Hawke’s Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) infectious diseases physician Dr Andrew Burns said the new updated vaccine covers four strains of flu. It was also better matched against the Australian flu strain known as AH3N2, which had caused deaths, hospitalisations and hospital admissions in the northern hemisphere.
“The best time to get a flu shot is before the start of the winter season,” Dr Burns said.
“This winter, more than ever, we’re encouraging people to seriously consider getting their flu shot to help protect themselves, their families and loved ones from a flu strain that has severely impacted communities abroad.
“The influenza vaccination does not contain ‘live’ strains — the vaccine allows your body to recognise the flu strains and build up immunity against them,” he said.
A significant number of people infected with influenza showed no signs or symptoms and unknowingly exposed others, he said.
Unichem Pharmacy owner Charles Nairn said he expected this year’s flu season to be ‘nasty’ given the northern hemisphere winter, where hospitalisation rates in the United States were the highest in around a decade.
He had already delivered 400 flu vaccine doses in CHB this season, more than this time last year. They cost $29 at his pharmacy.
The vaccine is available at the doctor and selected pharmacies and is free for pregnant women, people aged 65 or older, or people under 65 with chronic health conditions including diabetes and most heart or lung conditions, and children aged four or under who have had a stay in hospital for asthma or other breathing problems.
The HBDHB’s Integration portfolio manager Di Vicary said it could take two weeks for the body to build up sufficient antibodies to make the jab effective, so now was the best time to receive it.
■ For more information visit www.fightflu.co.nz or www.ourhealthhb.nz
IMMUNISED: Unichem Pharmacy owner Charles Nairn giving CHB mayor Alex Walker her flu jab last week, as Di Vicary from the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board watches wearing a Beat the Bugs t-shirt.