Scientists hot on trail of flu

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 07:32 14/03/2012

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Catching flu can give you the shakes, but a new research project called Shivers is hoping to reduce the numbers suffering from the virus.

This year marks the beginning of an international five-year flu study being funded by the United States Government's Centres for Disease Control.

Named the Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance project, or Shivers, the research will be conducted by New Zealand scientists in the Auckland region. It aims to help improve international knowledge on the prevention and treatment of flu.

Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner said the project would start in May and, in its first year, would assess patients at Auckland and Middlemore hospitals with respiratory problems. In its second year it would also assess patients at general practices.

The data would be useful to work out what proportion of the population gets flu each year, which groups are hardest hit and how effective flu vaccines are.

The campaign to promote the national free influenza immunisation was launched in Wellington yesterday, with hopes that the uptake this year will be higher than last year's almost one million doses.

National Influenza Specialist Group spokesman and virologist Lance Jennings said the vaccine covered three strains, including swine flu, which was still in circulation and posed a serious threat.

"Although influenza is mild to moderate for most people, it can lead to serious complications and even death for others. And even a moderate bout of influenza can prevent you from working, studying or enjoying other activities for a week or more."

The immunisation does not give you flu because it does not contain live viruses.

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