Help the Canterbury Health System help you, get your flu shot now

Monday July 9, 2012

​Winter illness has hit Canterbury’s fragile health system hard and Cantabrians are reminded to phone their General Practice Team if they’re unwell and to get immunised against flu to avoid getting sick.

David Meates, CDHB chief executive officer says in the last few weeks, hospital admissions for winter-related illnesses, particularly influenza, have risen dramatically.   

“If you are feeling unwell, stay home and if your condition deteriorates phone your General Practice Team.  You can phone your own doctor 24/7.  After hours your call will be answered by a nurse who can tell you what to do and where to go,” Mr Meates says.

“It’s also really important people get their flu immunisation, it’s free for those who are most vulnerable.  It’s always a good idea to see your doctor sooner, rather than later if you start to feel unwell.”

Mr Meates says the surge in patient numbers could be because fewer people have had their flu vaccination this year.

Most of those presenting to hospital had pre-existing medical conditions and some had become seriously ill.

“Last year the CDHB extended the eligibility of the free flu vaccine to under 18s in Canterbury and we dodged a bullet in terms of winter illnesses because people got vaccinated but this year it’s a different story. We are already seeing people admitted to hospital for extended periods, some of them very young.  Currently there are 107 people in Christchurch Hospital who have been there more than ten days.  Eighty three is the number of people that will create a gridlock situation and reduce the flow of patients through the hospital,” Mr Meates says.

“There are also around 90 people being cared for in isolation for various illnesses and 45 of those have been confirmed as influenza and 27 more are suspected to have influenza. Our Intensive Care Unit is also full and includes a number of influenza patients. We’re in the process of working with our neighbouring District Health Boards and private providers to ensure the ongoing delivery of elective surgery.”

General Practices are also being asked to give patients with influenza symptoms same day appointments where possible.

Influenza vaccine is available free in Canterbury for those aged under 18, over 65 pregnant women and anyone with a chronic illness, including mental illness.

Additional information:

  • If you are sick, especially with flu or a gastro illness, please don't visit relatives or friends in hospital.
  • If you feel fine and are visiting a friend or relative in hospital, but think you may have been exposed to influenza, please notify staff on arrival so that precautions can be taken to prevent cross infection.
  • Ward 26 at Christchurch Hospital has specifically been allocated for patients with influenza.
  • Flu is a serious, sometimes fatal illness – it is quite different from the common cold.
  • If you are at home or feel sick – contact your General Practice Team. Do not come into the hospital.

Immunisation key to avoiding flu

  • It is the single most important thing you can do for you and your family's health this year.
  • You need to get vaccinated every year because immunity wanes, and because each vaccination protects against strains most likely to be in circulation.

This year they are A(H3N2) with some A(H1N1) and influenza B viruses

There's still time to get vaccinated and it's free until 31 July for:

  • people aged 65 and over,
  • those with a chronic health condition (including heart disease, asthma diabetes and mental illness),
  • under 18s,
  • pregnant women.

School holidays are a great time to get vaccinated

  • Flu can spread rapidly through schools - it's likely that flu numbers will take off again when schools go back.
  • The vaccine is free under 18s, who are the main spreaders of the flu.

Contact your general practice team today and get vaccinated

Myth busting

  • "The vaccine gives me the flu" - It can't because there is no live virus material in the vaccine.
  • "I can just take antibiotics or an antiviral if I get the flu" - Antibiotics don't work against flu. Antivirals such as Tamiflu may help if you take them at the right time, but by the time you realise you have flu, it could be too late.
  • "I'm fit and healthy and I eat well, that'll protect me" - Flu infects the fit and healthy too.
  • "The vaccine will make me sick": There are some risks associated with flu vaccination though they are less common and far less severe than symptoms or complications from actually getting flu. Generally, they amount no more than a sore spot on the arm, a feeling of mild malaise, or a low grade fever and will pass in a couple of days.


Page last reviewed: 24 July 2013