Wellington flu spike looming
The winter flu is starting to take hold in Wellington with an increase in cases compared to last year.
Ten hospital patients tested positive for Influenza last month, Capital and Coast District Health Board Infectious Diseases Specialist Tim Blackmore said.
"The laboratory testing data for the region shows an increase in numbers compared to last year, but there has not been any sharp increase seen."
Mr Blackmore said Wellington was experiencing a later start to the flu season this year.
"Anecdotally we are hearing that there is an increase in influenza-like illnesses in the community, however we are yet to see a major impact on emergency department presentations and hospital admissions in the Wellington region."
Environmental Science and Research (ESR), which collects data from GPs throughout the country, said the majority of cases were influenza A or H3N2, which is known to cause serious illness in the elderly population.
Of the 94 influenza viruses identified nationally between June 25 and July 1, 48 were Influenza A.
The influenza consultation rates in Wellington, Porirua and Kapiti were double the national average but still comparatively low, while Hutt DHB had "very low" rates, an ESR spokesman said.
Christchurch District Health Board said the number of people with influenza had trebled in the last week of June, from 10 per cent to 40 per cent.
Three cases of H1N1, the swine flu strain were among the Christchurch cases, but the majority of people had so far contracted the seasonal strains.
Auckland had also experienced a spike in cases and had the highest rates in the country, the ESR spokesman said.
Christchurch District Health Board reported three cases of H1N1, the swine flu strain this year, but the majority of people had so far contracted the seasonal strains.
H1N1, H3N2 and Influenza B are included in this year's vaccine.
Fewer people have had the influenza vaccine than this time last year, National Influenza Specialist Group spokeswoman Brenda Saunders said.
As of today 954,610 vaccines had been administered.
"July 31 is the cut off for those groups of people that are eligible for a free vaccine," she said.
Flu immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of severe complications, including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone with ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease and most cancers.
The Health Ministry formed NISG in 2000 to increase public awareness of influenza and the importance of immunisation to prevent it.
It has created an online game to encourage people to "stop the flu before it gets to you".
Up to one in five New Zealanders are infected with influenza each year and about 400 people die because it can make other conditions, such as breathing or heart problems, worse.
It is caused by a viral infection that affects the respiratory system.
Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, pains and a dry cough, which usually last between seven and 10 days.
A cold virus only affects the nose, throat and the upper chest and lasts for a few days.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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