Te Mana Hauora O Te Tairawhiti
3 April 2017
Time to protect yourself against the flu
People should get their flu vaccination now before the flu season is in full force. Vaccines are now available from family doctors and three Gisborne pharmacies.
Influenza or ‘flu’ can be a serious illness – it’s much more than a “bad cold”, says Medical Officer of Health, Dr Margot McLean. “While last year was a mild season for the flu, the northern hemisphere has had a particularly nasty strain of influenza this season, seriously affecting many vulnerable people like children and the elderly, and we can expect the same here.”
“Some people can end up in hospital and the illness can make other conditions, such as breathing or heart problems even worse and sometimes can even lead to death.”
The staff at Hauora Tairāwhiti will be vaccinated this week. They know that keeping vulnerable patients safe is their highest priority. For the last four years, they have had the highest percentage of staff immunised against influenza out of all New Zealand district health boards (DHB), with 93% immunised in 2016. 83% of all local DHB staff rolled up their sleeves to protect themselves and the people they care for last year.
The vaccine is provided free to all staff and pregnant women attending the hospital antenatal clinic or the maternity unit. Director of Midwifery Liz-Lee Taylor says that we know that 80% of people with the flu do not show or feel symptoms but can pass the flu onto those vulnerable women and babies without even knowing. Therefore it is important for all health professionals working with pregnant women and babies to be immunised to reduce this risk. New Zealand research shows that pregnant women are nearly 5 times more likely to be admitted to hospital when suffering from the flu than women who are not pregnant. The consequences to a mother and baby who get the flu are more serious and can be life-threatening, as seen with a recent case.
The Ministry of Health recommends all health care workers are immunised against influenza. This is particularly important for staff working in areas where the introduction of influenza may result in life-threatening illness, for example, Neonatal Intensive Care Units, Maternity or those who are immune-compromised. Flu immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of more severe disease and complications – pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone with ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.
Dr McLean says Influenza immunisation cannot give you the flu because it does not contain live viruses. There can be mild side effects, and these usually disappear within 1-2 days without treatment.