Southern DHB is recommending preventative steps to help reduce the spread of the influenza virus, in light of reported cases of the illness in Dunedin in recent days.

Thoroughly washing hands, covering your nose and mouth and using tissues to trap germs from coughs and sneezes and promptly binning used tissues, are a few simple measures that can help reduce the spread of the influenza (flu) virus and cut down on illness.

University of Otago’s student health yesterday reported an increase in students presenting acutely unwell with influenza-like symptoms and confirmed three students have tested positive for Influenza A (H3N2).

Both Southern DHB and Dunedin Urgent Doctors are also reporting an increase number of patients with similar complaints and symptoms, some of whom have been diagnosed with influenza.

“It’s evident that the flu is here and it is important that people are aware and that they do what they can to keep themselves well and prevent the spread of the virus,” says Southern DHB, Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Jack. 

“Influenza is more than just a bad cold and it can be quite serious. It can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better.”

Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract that spreads easily and quickly from person to person. This virus can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours and people with the flu are contagious for the first five days of the illness.

Symptoms include feeling extremely unwell, a sudden high temperature, headache, general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat.

“Treating the flu is largely treating or lessening the symptoms with rest, fluids and pain relief,” Dr Jack says. “However, if you feel very unwell please seek medical care through your family doctor or call Healthline for advice.” 

Immunisation is the best prevention for influenza and the vaccine will be available in New Zealand in early April.

The flu vaccine is free for New Zealanders at high risk of complications - pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and people of any age with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including serious asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.

For advice about influenza immunisation visit www.fightflu.co.nz

For free health advice, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.