Information about INFLUENZA (or Flu as it is known to most of us in NZ)
Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that spreads quickly from person to person through touching each other and through the air (or airborne transmission). In temperate climates, such as New Zealand, you're more likely to get the flu in winter. Some people get very sick - influenza causes deaths every year. So far this year in NZ there has been four deaths related to flu and hundreds of people have been hospitalized.
Symptoms of influenza come on suddenly and can include fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, runny nose cough and stomach upsets. Older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions are compromised and are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from influenza, such as pneumonia. If you're at a higher risk, it is important to see your doctor early to find out if you need treatment. If you are unwell, stay at home and rest ideally/preferably in a separate, well-ventilated room away from other people. It is important to drink small amounts of fluid often. Control fever, aches and pains with aspirin or paracetamol for adults, and paracetamol only for children under the age of 18 years. Also a damp cloth on your forehead and washing your arms and body with a cool cloth, bathing in slightly warm water. Please see your doctor if your symptoms get worse. These include increasing breathing problems, coughing up yellow or green coloured phlegm, severe headaches, neck pain or dehydration. Always ring your doctor or practice nurse if you are worried or phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.
Influenza can be caused by different strains of the influenza virus (symptoms for different types of flu are the same). You can also be a carrier of the virus, not getting the symptoms yourself but very easily passing it on to others. This is why receiving the vaccine is very important to provide more protection and prevention amongst our communities. The seasonal vaccine is altered most years to cover the particular strains of the virus that are circulating each year. This year the flu vaccine contains four different strains of the flu. You can receive the vaccine from your GP or Practice Nurse and sometimes within your workplace. After getting the vaccine, your body takes two weeks to build up the immunity from the vaccine.
The difference between influenza and a cold are:
INFLUENZA - sudden onset
- Moderate to severe illness lasting 7-10 days
- Fever (usually high)
- Muscle aches
- Headache (may be severe)
- Dry cough may become moist
- Can suffer severe complications e.g. pneumonia
- Vaccine available
- Mild illness
- Mild fever
- A runny nose
- Muscle pain uncommon
- Mild headache (congested sinuses)
- Sometimes a cough
- No vaccine available
Immunisation is your best protection against influenza. Visit the Flu Free website for more information.