Editorial: Protect against the flu with jab

By Annemarie Quill

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The flu kills dozens of Kiwis every year.
The flu kills dozens of Kiwis every year.

It is officially autumn but you would never know it here in the Bay.

Most of us are still in our jandals, the barbie is still smoking, and the boots and merinos look oddly out of place in shop windows when the mercury is hitting around 25C as it did yesterday.

Despite the hot weather, it is never too early to prepare for the winter season as far as protecting oneself against winter ills.

As Cassandra Mason reported in Monday's paper, death by influenza might sound medieval but, in reality, the flu kills dozens of New Zealanders every year. It is also a debilitating illness which can cause complications as well as costing employers millions in employee absences.

Fortunately, help is on hand in the form of a vaccine which is improved each year. The Government spends about $18 million a year on vaccines to protect the at-risk population from influenza, with employers and individuals spending an additional $10 million on annual flu jabs. The investment appears to be paying off, with Ministry of Health figures showing hospital costs for influenza-related admissions dropping from $7.3 million in 2010, to $1.5 million last financial year.

Despite this, many people do not have the jab. It is free until the end of July for pregnant women, those 65 and over, and anyone with certain long-term health conditions. Several employers also offer the shot.

Even if you have to pay, it is a small cost to protect yourself, and others. Others I know refuse the jab because they are anti-vaccination in general, believing that it might make them sick, or in the stoic approach that a bit of a cold never hurt anyone. Health experts caution against such complacency - influenza can be severe and if you turn up to work and spread the bugs you are putting others in harm's way. A simple jab will help you dodge the flu bug, saving yourself, your colleagues and your employer a big headache.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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