Flu levels up on last year, six in hospital

Six people have been admitted to Taranaki Base Hospital's ICU with serious flu-like symptoms and needing help to breathe.

Medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman said flu levels were slightly higher than last year, but considerably less than in 2012.

"Overall, it had been a quiet year so far for influenza and national surveillance data shows that we are tracking just slightly over the seasonal threshold for the flu season."

Influenza shouldn't be confused with common colds or other respiratory viruses often seen at this time of year, he said.

"Influenza can be a serious disease, especially for people with underlying medical conditions. It can make their condition much worse and lead to hospitalisation and even death. Influenza usually has symptoms such as a sudden onset of illness, high fever, headache, a dry cough and illness usually lasts seven to 10 days."

Dr Jarman said it was important that people at risk of complications stay away from people with coughs.

"At risk people are young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions," he said.

To avoid influenza people are advised to wash hands frequently and follow good respiratory hygiene. Sick people should stay home until they are better.

Free influenza vaccinations finish at the end of August and the H1N1 strain, or swine flu, is covered by the vaccine.

Vaccination is the best way of reducing chances of catching influenza.

Most people with influenza do not need to see a doctor. They should stay at home and rest in a separate, well ventilated room away from other people, he said.

It is important to drink small amounts of fluids often.

People should phone Healthline (0800 611 116) or their doctor if they are concerned or if they: Feel a lot worse, are not getting better after a few days, have an existing health condition or are in a high risk group, are pregnant, are taking any medication that affects the immune system, are looking after someone with influenza and are in a high risk group.

Taranaki Daily News