H3N2 spikes in New Zealand

New Zealand influenza surveillance data recently showed a spike in reports of H3N2 influenza.

In recent weeks, the number of general practice consultations for flu-like illness has increased, although the overall numbers are considered to be below normal seasonal activity, according to

Dr. Lance Jennings, a virus expert and spokesman for the National Influenza Specialist Group, said the predominance of the H3N2 virus is of increased concern because it can be particularly severe on the elderly and those that have concurrent medical conditions.

"A major outbreak of H3N2 would cause a surge in hospital admissions and deaths. It's not too late, however, for eligible people to get a free flu vaccination which covers three strains currently in circulation in the southern hemisphere, including H3N2," Jennings said, reports. "When you start seeing other people getting the 'flu' it's almost too late to protect yourself. It can take up to two weeks to develop immunity from the time of vaccination. So people need to book in with their doctor or nurse today."

In New Zealand, flu vaccination is free for those at high risk for complications, including pregnant women, the elderly and those with ongoing health conditions. Every year, approximately 400 people die in New Zealand because of complications from the flu.