A simple sneeze or a cough is all that it takes to spread the influenza virus. As we head into the ‘flu’ season, health professionals are warning that we must prepare ourselves for a particularly aggressive virus. GPs are urging people to take precautions and get the flu vaccine, even if you have not previously considered getting vaccinated.
Hospitals in the Northern Hemisphere are reporting higher than usual numbers of patients with flu. The influenza virus is seasonal and travels across the globe. It is therefore likely that we will see similar problems here in New Zealand.
It’s important to remember that the flu is more serious than just having a cold. Did you know that having the flu doubles your risk of having a heart attack?
Patients with influenza often complain of muscle and joint ache, headache and a fever. Most people who get influenza just end up feeling really miserable and need some time to rest. However, some will need hospital treatment and unfortunately every year there are influenza-related deaths.
Certain groups of people are more at risk of getting complications from flu. This includes elderly, pregnant women and people with long-term health problems such as diabetes or asthma. Many of these patients are offered a free yearly flu vaccine. I would recommend that you have the vaccine even if you need to pay. I make sure my whole family takes the vaccine every year as it offers such good protection.
This year there is also a funded vaccine against shingles for people aged 65-80 called Zostavax. It’s a great opportunity to get vaccinated against both flu and shingles.