New Zealand tackles spread of influenza virus

New Zealand ingrains due to unusual spread of influenza virus

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Flu season has arrived in both New Zealand’s southern island of Te Ika-a-Maui, and northern island of Te Waipounamu, leaving doctors struggling to cope as the reported cases are unusually high.

Although the Influenza A flu emerges every year, a significant increase has been reported, while the Influenza B type also emerged in both islands.

According to the National Influenza Specialist Group spokesperson Lance Jennings, it is not common for two viruses to occur in the same period. However, the government has already taken the necessary precautions.

"It is entirely possible but the seasonal influenza vaccine that is currently available should provide good protection against both the A- and B-strains that are circulating in New Zealand," Jennings said.

The Influenza virus is an infection that appears as a common cold but it can be more rigorous or even fatal. The most effective way to prevent it is by getting vaccinated on time.

"I think we're about 17,000 doses shy of last year's record of 1.20 million doses distributed, so it would be nice to reach that target and protect those at greatest risk and who haven't received their vaccine as yet," added Jennings.

The vaccine is free for emergency situations and the vaccination period has been extended until the end of August, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman stated.

"Ministry of Health surveillance suggests that influenza has not yet peaked this winter. To help ensure people have the protection they need we are extending the funded vaccination season until 31 August," Dr Coleman said.

"Although the vaccine was delayed worldwide by a few weeks, the health sector has quickly caught up with previous years' distribution," he added.

According to the online Herald newspaper, there have been 131 A type flu reports in the northern island and two in the southern island. The B type has had 30 reports in the south island and 29 in the north.

The southern island has around 1.6 million residents as recorded in a 2014 census, whereas the northern island has around 3.5 million residents.

Health experts expect a significant rise of virus reports as children return to school.

TRTWorld and agencies