Whanganui's fight against the flu virus well underway

17 March 2014

WDHB board chair Dot McKinnon receiving her flu vaccination from WDHB infection, prevention and control coordinator Jacqueline Pennefather.
The Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) fully supports the push to focus this year’s seasonal influenza immunisation programme towards pregnant women and their newborn babies.
WDHB clinical nurse manager public health, community and rural Itayi Mapanda says the influenza vaccine has been given to pregnant women for many years with no safety concerns.

Given that healthy, pregnant women are up to 18 times more likely to be admitted to hospital when suffering from influenza than non-pregnant women, she hopes they will take the opportunity to receive a free vaccination against the illness.

New Zealand College of Midwives spokesperson Lesley Dixon says pregnant women are at particularly high risk of severe complications and death from influenza because of the changes that occur to their immune and other systems during pregnancy.

And of equal importance, influenza immunisation in pregnancy offers protection to the newborn baby during the first few months of his or her life says National Influenza Specialist Group spokesperson and virologist Dr Lance Jennings.

“As well as pregnant women, we would particularly like to encourage all eligible adults, including younger people, who have ongoing medical conditions to consider free immunisation. Our research shows there is a degree of complacency among younger people in particular which we need to overcome to protect them. You are never too fit to get hit by influenza,” Dr Jennings says.
Influenza immunisation is free from a GP or nurse until July 31, 2014 for New Zealanders at high risk of complications – pregnant women,  people aged 65 and over, and anyone under 65 years of age, including children six months and older, with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.
The influenza vaccine for the 2014 Southern Hemisphere season includes two new
strains based upon recommendations from the World Health Organization on the strains most likely to spread and cause illness this season. These
are newly included in the vaccine, not new or novel viruses. The composition is:
  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
  • A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)-like virus (New)
  • B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus (New).
For further information go to www.fightflu.co.nz or www.health.govt.nz/influenza or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863. It is important to note that the influenza virus is different from a cold virus. A cold virus only affects the nose, throat and the upper chest and lasts for a few days.