Two Aucklanders have died from influenza this month sparking fears the virulent Australian outbreak could be spreading here.
The Counties Manukau District Health Board confirmed on Tuesday that a 12-year-old and a 62-year-old have died from influenza.
Immunisation Advisory Centre director Dr Nikki Turner told the NZ Herald the most important message in an outbreak like this is to stop the spread of flu across the community rather than focus on individuals.
“Obviously, vaccination is one way [to stop the spread] and the second thing is when you’re sick to stay away from people and stay away from babies.”
So far, we’ve fared much better than our neighbours across the ditch, with 139 Australians confirmed to have died from the flu this year by the Australian Federal Department of Health, and over 55,000 cases of influenza reported nationwide. These high numbers are about three times the national average for this time of year. By comparison, the most recent influenza surveillance report from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) shows New Zealand has had low but steadily increasing cases of influenza – normal for this time of year.
Turner told Newshub the fact that we’re seeing the same kinds of flu as Australia is actually a good thing, as “currently the flu strains are well matched by the vaccine we’re using at the moment.”
According to Michael Baker, professor of public health at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealanders are “far too relaxed” about the flu and it “needs to be taken very seriously”. He told Stuff last week “It’s a bigger killer than the road toll. It’s amongst our most lethal infectious diseases, based on sheer number of fatalities each year”.
The deaths were covered by local media, including:
Newshub: Two Aucklanders die from flu, fears Australian outbreak could spread
Stuff: Influenza kills two people in Auckland
NZHerald: Two people die in Auckland from the flu