Flu cases up, jab now free longer

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:58 18/07/2014

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The free flu jab has been extended until the end of August to cope with an expected spike in flu cases this winter.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board medical officer of health Ed Kiddle said it had been a mild flu season so far but cases had jumped in the last week.

Kiddle met with Marlborough GPs on Tuesday to update them on flu cases in the region.

"Interestingly last week there was not much happening but from talking to GPs in the last few days there have been increasing cases," Kiddle said.

Rising cases in Marlborough were consistent with a national climb in flu cases, he said. A nasty strain of the virus had swept through whole families during the school holidays, Kiddle said.

This winter H1N1 appears to be the most common strain of influenza. This strain, which contributed to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, affects adults and young children more severely than other strains, Kiddle said.

One person had been admitted to Nelson Hospital intensive care unit with the strain and required mechanical respiration. There had been no reports of patients being admitted to Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, with the strain.

Kiddle said he supported the extension of the free flu jab and GPs were recalling at-risk patients to get the vaccine.

"Ideally we would have liked anyone who was planning to get the flu vaccine to have got it by now. People should get in before the flu season really hits."

Over-65s, pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions such as severe asthma, and children under 5 years who have been admitted to hospital with a respiratory illness were regarded as at-risk, he said.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said her ministry had extended the free flu jab until the end of August after surveillance data revealed the winter flu season had not yet peaked.

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- The Marlborough Express

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