Woman's death a grim flu reminder

Last updated 05:00 13/04/2013

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TInfluenza has claimed the life of a Canterbury woman two months before the annual flu season is set to strike.

Carole Mary Burgess, who was in her mid-70s, contracted the deadly H3N2 influenza virus before she died in Christchurch Hospital on March 27.

Bereaved family members confirmed Burgess was diagnosed with influenza, but that they did not want to comment further.

Last year Canterbury was hit with an influenza H3N2 outbreak four times the national average and 347 people wound up in hospital.

The flu strain then hit the United States, where hundreds of people died from influenza-associated illnesses, including more than 100 children.

As New Zealand prepares for its second bout of the killer flu strain, a Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) preliminary internal review shows five Cantabrians who died last year had laboratory-confirmed influenza.

CDHB clinical virologist Lance Jennings also confirmed a laboratory test had found one patient in Christchurch died from influenza H3N2 last month.

Influenza can infect Kiwis throughout the year and is often spread by travellers returning from overseas or disembarking cruise ships, he said.

The normal influenza season begins in June and Jennings urged people to get immunised as soon as possible because the seasonal vaccine "provides our best protection against influenza".

So far this year, the vaccine is "flowing out the doors" of medical centres across the country.

Almost 800,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed, more than 20 per cent ahead of the same period last year.

Government health targets aim for more than 1.2 million Kiwis to get their flu jab this year and Jennings said the country is tracking "extremely well ahead of targets".

Those eligible for free immunisation are pregnant women, the elderly, children with a history of asthma or respiratory conditions up to the age of 6, and adults with medical conditions.

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- The Press

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