You could come in contact with influenza at anytime
Yes; its THAT time again. Did you know that around one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza each year? Many people won’t feel sick at all, but they can still pass the flu on to others.
Influenza can be anywhere. Contact with the flu virus is almost unavoidable, and while contact doesn’t necessarily mean infection, it does mean that you are never far from the possibility of catching the flu.
Influenza can be a serious illness and in some cases can be fatal. Infection with the flu virus may lead to a stay in hospital, for any age group, but particularly if you are elderly or have an ongoing medical condition. Influenza can make an existing medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes, a lot worse.
Even if you don’t end up in hospital, the flu can keep you in bed for a week or more, preventing you from doing work, sport or just about anything that requires leaving the house.
By immunising against the flu virus you can protect yourself and lessen the chance of bringing it home to a baby, older relative, or someone with a medical condition who could develop serious complications from influenza.
Get immunised early before the influenza season starts.
See below for more information about the influenza virus and what you can do to minimise your risk.
Influenza (or ‘the flu’) is caused by three types of influenza virus – A, B and C that infect the respiratory system. Influenza is contagious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with an infected person or by touching a contaminated surface. Extended periods in an enclosed poorly ventilated space with an infected person increases the chances of getting influenza. You can be infectious around a day before symptoms appear.
Influenza illness can include any or all of these symptoms: fever, muscle aches, headache, lack of energy, dry cough, sore throat, and possibly a runny nose. The fever and body aches can last 3-5 days and the cough and lack of energy may last for two or more weeks.
Although people with underlying health conditions are most at risk from influenza associated complications, previously healthy people can still become seriously ill and even die.
Is it the Flu or a Cold?
Influenza, commonly called the flu, can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal. The flu can lead to a stay in hospital for any age group but particularly if you are elderly or have an ongoing medical condition. Influenza can make an existing medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes, a lot worse.
Even if you do not end up in hospital, influenza can keep you in bed for a week or more, preventing you from doing work,sport or just about anything that requires leaving the house
Influenza is different from a cold virus. A cold virus only affects the nose, throat and the upper chest and lasts for a few days, whereas influenza can be a serious illness that affects the whole body and can last up to a week or more.
Here are six differences between coronavirus and the flu:
Coronavirus appears to spread more slowly than the flu. This is probably the biggest difference between the two. The flu has a shorter incubation period (the time it takes for an infected person to show symptoms) and a shorter serial interval (or the time between successive cases). Coronavirus’s serial interval is around five to six days, while flu’s gap between cases is more like three days, the WHO says. So flu still spreads more quickly.
Shedding: Viral shedding is what happens when a virus has infected a host, has reproduced, and is now being released into the environment. It is what makes a patient infectious. Some people start shedding the coronavirus within two days of contracting it, and before they show symptoms, although this probably isn’t the main way it is spreading, the WHO says.
Secondary infections. As if contracting coronavirus wasn’t bad enough, it leads to about two more secondary infections on average. The flu can sometimes cause a secondary infection, usually pneumonia, but it’s rare for a flu patient to get two infections after the flu. The WHO warned that context is key (someone who contracts coronavirus might already have been fighting another condition, for example).
Don’t blame snotty kids—adults are passing coronavirus around. While kids are the primary culprits for flu transmission, this coronavirus seems to be passed between adults. That also means adults are getting hit hardest—especially those who are older and have underlying medical conditions. Experts are baffled as to why kids seem protected from the worst effects of the coronavirus, according to the Washington Post. Some say they might already have some immunity from other versions of the coronavirus that appear in the common cold; another theory is that kids’ immune systems are always on high alert and might simply be faster than adults’ in battling Covid-19.
Coronavirus is far deadlier than the flu. Thus far, the mortality rate for coronavirus (the number of reported cases divided by the number of deaths) is around 3% to 4%, although it’s likely to be lower because many cases have not yet been reported. The flu’s rate is 0.1%.
There is no cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. Not yet, anyway, although work is under way. There is, however, a flu vaccine—and everyone should get it, not least because being vaccinated could help lessen the load on overstretched medical services in the coming weeks.
Influenza vaccination is FREE for people who are most at risk.
Almost everyone can benefit from the protection of annual influenza immunisation.
The vaccine is especially important for people at risk of serious complications from influenza including:
Pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy)
Anyone aged 65 years or over
Children aged 6 months to under 5 years who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness
Anyone aged 6 months to under 65 years with any of the following medical conditions:
Chronic heart problems, excluding high cholesterol or high blood pressure if they have not caused problems with other organs
Chronic breathing or lung problems, excluding asthma if regular preventative therapy is not required
Chronic kidney disease
Cancer that is not in remission, excluding skin cancers if not invasive
Other conditions (such as autoimmune disease, immune suppression, immune deficiency, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), transplant recipients, neuromuscular and central nervous system diseases, cochlear implant, error of metabolism at risk of major metabolic decompensation, pre- or post-splenectomy, Down syndrome, haemoglobinopathies and children on long term aspirin)
If you do not have one of these eligible conditions, you would still benefit from an influenza immunisation available, at a small cost.
Can we prevent the Flu?
The influenza virus spreads very quickly from person to person through touch as well as through the air.
Immunisation is your best defence against influenza.
You can get a flu jab at the Pleasant Point Health Centre for a small fee. If you are over 65 or in a high risk group, it will be free. Some workplaces also offer a free immunisation programme for staff. Check with your employer about that.
The vaccine is available from March until the end of July and we will be running flu vaccine clinics regularly over that time..
Immunisation if you’re pregnant
Pregnant women are strongly advised to be immunised as pregnancy places a woman at greater risk of complications from influenza. Influenza immunisation is free for pregnant women between March and the end of July.
Mothers who receive the influenza vaccine while pregnant can pass protection on to their baby. The vaccine offers protection to infants who would normally be too young (under 6 months) to receive immunisation individually.
If you are unwell, stay at home until you are better.
Follow basic hygiene practices:
Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and dry them for 20 seconds – or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Don’t share drinks.
Avoid crowded places.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – then put the tissue in a lined bin.
Immunisation is free for pregnant women
Influenza is not a cold. It can be a dangerous illness that poses a serious risk to your life and that of your unborn baby. There are a number of influenza related complications that can affect baby’s development in the womb and can even lead to miscarriage or premature birth. A range of physical changes during pregnancy (such as changes in immunity) increase a pregnant woman’s risk of serious influenza complications.
Influenza immunisation is strongly recommended for women who will be (or intend to be) pregnant during autumn and winter (usually early March to 31 December each year).
You are at risk of Influenza while pregnant
Influenza is not a cold. It can be a dangerous illness that can pose a very serious risk to your life and that of your unborn baby. There are a number of influenza related complications that can affect development in the womb and can even lead to miscarriage or premature birth.
There are a range of changes that occur during pregnancy (such as changes in immunity) which may put pregnant women at higher risk. New Zealand research shows that pregnant women are nearly 5 times more likely to be admitted to hospital when suffering from influenza than women who are not pregnant.
Influenza is dangerous
There are a number of factors that make influenza dangerous to an unborn baby. The influenza virus does not actually cross the placenta to infect your baby, the danger comes from your own body as it fights the illness.
Danger to Mum
Being pregnant and getting influenza means you are at increased risk of pneumonia
You are nearly 5 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with influenza compared to a non-pregnant woman
Danger to Baby
Low birth weight
Influenza immunisation will not harm your unborn baby
It may be reassuring to know that your influenza vaccine does not cross the placenta into your baby. The vaccine simply stimulates your own immune system to make antibodies that can fight off the virus.
The good news is that your antibodies are also passed on to your baby so they are born with some protection against influenza for the first few months of life. Newborns and young infants have higher rates of influenza and hospitalisation than other children, so the protection they receive from you in the womb could make all the difference.