It doesn’t matter how fit and healthy you are, influenza can affect anyone, a health expert says.
Taranaki District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman said a quarter of all New Zealanders were infected with influenza each year and now was the time to get vaccinated.
Jarman said influenza was more than just a bad cold.
“The flu is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus and can affect anyone no matter how fit, active and healthy they may be.”
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Symptoms can come on suddenly and include fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, runny nose, cough, stomach upsets and severe fatigue.
Pregnant women, newborn babies, the elderly, people with lowered immunity and those with certain long term medical conditions such as asthma or heart problems are at higher risk of complications and hospitalisation, Jarman said.
“Influenza vaccination is safe, effective and can be lifesaving for those who are the most vulnerable,” he said.
Jarman said because of their job healthcare workers were at an increased risk of contracting influenza, and may transmit the infection to more vulnerable individuals, with the potential for serious outcomes.
Influenza vaccination reduced a healthcare worker’s risk of infection by about two thirds, he said.
“Each year we may encounter new types of influenza virus, so it’s important to ensure DHB staff are vaccinated on an annual basis to protect themselves and patients at our hospitals,” he said.
“New data shows that one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza each year. Many won’t feel sick at all, but can still pass the virus onto family members, co-workers and patients and make them seriously ill.”
TDHB chief executive Rosemary Clements said immunisation was the best form of protection against influenza and encouraged those in the community to get vaccinated, especially pregnant women and those aged over 65 for whom it was free.
Clements said the TDHB’s staff flu vaccination campaign kicked off on Wednesday.
“We had over 1000 staff who had the influenza vaccine last year, which is really positive and highlights their commitment to patient safety.
“We encourage our staff to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their family and our patients.”
Several pharmacies around Taranaki are offering flu vaccines.