In New Zealand there is a national influenza surveillance system which was established in 1991 as part of the World Health Organization (WHO) global program for influenza surveillance. Nationally the surveillance system is run by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) who relies on District Health Board, Public Health Service Influenza surveillance coordinators to collect the Influenza data from certain GP practices.

Seasonal Influenza (flu) is an infectious disease caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

Symptoms

Symptoms of influenza may vary and not everyone who gets the flu will suffer from a fever. People who have the flu often feel some or all of the following:

  • Sore throat
  • Feverish/chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Stomach upset

How is it spread?

Influenza is mainly spread by droplets (that contain the virus) when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. The airborne droplets are directly taken in through the nose and or mouth of people who are nearby and sometimes indirectly by a person’s hand after touching a surface that has the flu virus on it from settled droplets. It then gets into the body when that person touches their own mouth, eyes or nose.

Prevention

  • try to avoid close contact with people who have flu symptoms
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze.  
  • wash your hands often. Soap and water are best but if not available use an alcohol based hand gel.
  • try avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose

The best way to prevent influenza is by getting a flu vaccine (seasonal flu shot) each year.