Flu jabs urged as winter nears

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by Alexia Johnston

Flu jabs are being urged for South Canterbury residents as winter approaches.

The latest round of flu immunisations are available throughout the district.

Medical officer of health Dr Cheryl Brunton said the vaccine was the best way to combat the flu.

“It is also important to practise good personal hygiene, including regular hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes,” she said.

“If you have flu-like symptoms, please don’t come to work and share your bugs with other people.”

For many the vaccine is free from their GP, including those aged 65 or older, people in high-risk groups and pregnant women.

Hundreds of people in South Canterbury make the most of the service each year.

The Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness, Research and Surveillance Study (Shivers) shows one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza each year.

About 80% of those infected do not show symptoms, meaning they can unknowingly expose others to the virus.

Many employers provide the vaccine free to their staff.

Among them is Fulton Hogan, a company that has supported the initiative for the past 10 years.

Fulton Hogan workplace adviser Danielle Holden said the uptake increased each year.

“In the past we offered the vaccine on site to make it easy for people to take up the offer at work,” she said.

“However, last year we saw more people take up the vaccine when we covered the cost for them to get it through their own GP.”

The company would provide the service again this season.

Between 10%-20% of New Zealanders are struck down by the flu each year. A total of 8800 people in the Timaru district and up to 11,000 people in South Canterbury were affected, according to figures released by Community and Public Health.