24 July, 2012
Winter flu levels are being closely monitored
Health officials are closely monitoring this year’s seasonal flu levels with regular reporting from surveillance general practices, Healthline and hospitals, says Health Minister Tony Ryall.
‘The Ministry of Health is extending the nation-wide free seasonal flu vaccination scheme for eligible people for another month – to the end of August,’ Mr Ryall says.
‘New Zealand is now well and truly into the winter flu season and the latest information from the Ministry of Health is that the number and timing of people presenting with flu is not abnormal. Last winter was a particularly quiet year for flu.’
‘Canterbury DHB has had a spike in the numbers of people with flu but we are told their levels appear to be plateauing. After the earthquakes, Canterbury people under 18, as well as other eligible groups were offered free seasonal flu vaccinations and this special offer will also be extended for another extra month.
‘At this stage, the strains identified are covered by this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. We have stock of around 20,000 vaccinations within the current budget, and we are advised that additional doses would be readily available.
‘I have checked with DHBs around the country and they’ve confirmed all hospitals have plans to deal with winter flu pressures.
‘The most important thing people can do is adopt the public health messages intended to slow the spread of flu:
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Wash your hands
- If you’re unwell stay at home and contact your GP
‘These messages will feature on television and in newspapers over the next couple of weeks.’
Mr Ryall says health officials will continue to keep a close eye on flu levels over the coming weeks and keep the public informed.