At this time of year our thoughts would be usually turning to the start of the influenza season.
However that has been overshadowed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the threat it's having to our most vulnerable people in our community and our health system, but this year more than ever the flu could pose a significant public health issue in New Zealand.
That is why as part of the Ministry of Health's preparation for the potential impact of COVID-19 on the health sector, the 2020 influenza immunisation programme has started early for eligible patients only as they are at greatest risk of serious illness from influenza. Healthcare workers are also able to be vaccinated early.
While the flu vaccine doesn't protect against COVID-19, it does reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
So please get vaccinated against influenza early if you are one of these priority groups:
- People aged 65 and over
- Pregnant women
- People with a serious health condition such as severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, or heart disease, and young children with a history of severe respiratory illness
The list of eligible health conditions is available at the Fight Flu website.
Currently, The Ministry of health has also advised that everyone else who wants a vaccination defer until Monday 13 April, two weeks after the usual start date, to allow eligible patients and healthcare workers to have priority access. Please read for more detail
Signs and symptoms of influenza vs Covid-19
Usually around one in four New Zealanders are infected with the flu each year. Many people won’t feel sick at all but can still pass it on and make others feel very sick. In some cases it can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of flu and be able to distinguish it from COVID-19 or indeed the common cold.
The flu symptoms include fever (a temperature of 38°C or higher), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhoea.
It may take between 1–4 days to feel symptoms after you catch influenza. The worst symptoms usually last about 5 days, but coughing can last up to –3 weeks.
It is very similar to COVID-19 but there are differences. You can compare the symptoms of flu, COVID-19 and cold from the image below.
If you have any worries about yourself or someone you are caring for, call Healthline (0800 611 116) for advice or see a doctor, even if you have called or been seen before.
Remember we can help with the cost
Please remember, under the Medical, Specialist and Tests benefits of our day to day health plans, Members who have been with us for more than 3 months can claim back up to 50% of the cost of their flu vaccinations, GP visits, specialist consultations as long as they don't exceed their annual benefit maximums.
Improving the population's protection against influenza will improve our ability to manage any increased demand on health services as a result of COVID-19.
Please remember during these extraordinary times to stay safe and be kind.