Flu like illnesses on the rise

Thursday July 27, 2017 Written by Published in Health

The health department has recorded an increase in the influenza like illnesses in Rarotonga this month.


According to the Event Surveillance and Response (ESR) report issued by the department for the week ending July 16, nine cases of flu like illnesses were recorded.

A week later, in a report released on July 23, there were 15 cases reported.

However, the Ministry of Health is unable to say if the flu is becoming an epidemic.

“There is a slight increase but I cannot comment that we are having a flu epidemic yet,” said Doctor Yin May, the chief medical and clinical officer at Rarotonga Hospital.

“The slight increase is noted only in July according to the reports. Ministry of Health has not confirmed the type of influenza at this time.”

Dr May said symptoms of the flu like illnesses were fatigue, body aches, cough, runny nose/blocked nose, sore throat, fever and some with gastro intestinal symptoms (nausea and vomiting).

Preventative measures, she said, includes staying away from people with flu like symptoms, observe hand hygiene and cough etiquette, have enough rest and to take flu vaccine.

“Avoid overcrowding, follow preventative measures as mentioned (above) and if you are having flu like symptoms, avoid going to public places to reduce spread.

“If you have flu like symptoms take plenty of rest, fluids and paracetamol. You can self-manage at home first and do not need to visit the doctor or health centres immediately.”

Dr May said people with symptoms which do not improve within seven to 10 days should seek medical advice.

“If you have short of breath, chest pains, high fever, change in mental status (loss of consciousness/very dizzy) and severe body aches seek medical immediately,” she added.

Meanwhile Dr May said the annual flu vaccine can help reduce the risk of having flu each year.

But she said it was not 100 per cent effective because it does not work against every possible type of flu virus, which are the different strains A, B and C.

“But it should be taken by people who are more than 65 years of age, people who has comorbidities like diabetes, long term lung or heart conditions, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant women and children more than six  months old,” Dr May said.

However, Cook Islands Trading Corporation (CITC) Pharmacy manager Shannon Saunders said they provide flu vaccines which works against four different strains.

She said the vaccine season started in April, adding they have run out of stock.

Saunders added they would have to do a special order if anyone was wanting flu vaccine during this period.

“People really need to plan ahead, not until they are sick to get the flu vaccine,” Saunders said.

“It takes two weeks to get maximum resistance from the influenza virus. The vaccines we sell here does four different strains of influenza. Most of the ones in New Zealand only do against three strains.”

Saunders said the influenza virus would not improve with antibiotics.

“There is a difference between a cold and a flu. A cold is when you are feeling a bit meh but a flu can put you in bed, can give you body aches and pain. People can die from a flu, nobody dies from a cold.”

Saunders said CITC Pharmacy is the only place in Rarotonga that provides flu vaccines.

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