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HEALTH PREVENT INFLUENZA - VACCINATE

Are you at high risk of becoming seriously ill?

If you fall into the high-risk group of people who can get H1N1 influenza, the Department of Health has a vaccine to protect you. Not everyone needs to be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, but it is important for those who are at risk.

Who falls into the high risk groups?

  • pregnant women
  • children under 15 years who have HIV and Aids
  • people over 15 years who have HIV and Aids and are attending anti-retroviral (ARV) clinics
  • patients with chronic heart and lung diseases, diabetics and patients with chronic heart and lung diseases
  • healthcare workers.

Who should NOT be vaccinated?

Babies under the age of six months should NOT be vaccinated, as well as people who have:

  • a history of severe allergic reactions or other lifethreatening allergic reactions to chicken eggs or any of the ingredients or trace ingredients of the vaccine
  • a history of a severe reaction to previous flu vaccination
  • developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of having a flu vaccine
  • a moderate to severe illness with a fever (wait until you recover to be vaccinated).

Is the vaccine safe and will it protect me from other flu viruses?

Yes. Studies so far show that the new vaccines are just as safe as the previous seasonal flu vaccines and offer protection against other influenza viruses.

Can I take the new flu vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?

You can take the inactivated H1N1 vaccine at the same time as other injectable, non-influenza vaccines (like vaccine for measles), but it should be given on different parts of your body (e.g. one on the left and the other on the right arm).

Is it safe to be vaccinated while I am pregnant?

The vaccine is not harmful in pregnancy and won't affect fertility, the development of a baby, birthing or baby's development after birth. Because of the high risk to pregnant women, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of getting ill with H1N1 flu.

What are the signs of H1N1 flu?

Mild symptoms of H1N1 flu include:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • fever
  • muscle aches and pain
  • coughing.

Moderate symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pains
  • persistent vomiting and diarrhoea.

Severe symptoms include:

  • difficulty in breathing
  • blue lips
  • severe drowsiness or loss of consciousness

Precautions

Even if you have been vaccinated, you must still take precautions against H1N1 influenza and spreading the virus:

  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Throw your tissue away safely
  • Wash your hands well and often with soap and water
  • Avoid close contact with people who have flu
  • Stay at home if you are ill.
  • Go to a doctor if you have any of the symptoms

The vaccine is free of charge at government clinics to anyone who is considered to be in the high risk groups. (Private doctors and hospitals will charge a fee).

Protect yourself against colds and flu

As the winter nights get colder, out come the jerseys, blankets, heaters and tissues. During the cold winter months, flu and colds spread from one person to another at home and at work. You can protect yourself by boosting your immune system and staying warm.

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Colds and flu are spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing and is highly contagious.

Colds and flu are both caused by viruses and have similar symptoms. However, flu can last up to two weeks and is much more serious than a cold, which lasts about three to seven days. The signs include a runny nose, sore throat, headaches, tiredness, fever, coughing and body aches and pains. It can also include symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

If it is not treated immediately, it could get worse and lead to pneumonia. This is common with high-risk patients like the elderly, people with diabetes, asthma, bronchitis and other immune-related illnesses.

If your flu gets worse, your fever suddenly rises and you have difficulty breathing, you may have pneumonia.

Prevention

The best way to prevent colds and flu is to boost your immune system by eating nutritional food, especially lots of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins. You can also get a seasonal flu vaccination each year from your local clinic.

For further information call the H1N1 Hotline at 0861 364 232, visit a clinic or a healthcare professional, send an e-mail to H1N1@health.gov.za, or go to the National Department of Health's website at www.doh.gov.za