Health Matters WBOP March 2019 - Page 4

Protected together - make sure you and your family are immune to measles “With recent cases of measles in New Zealand, now is a very good time to check that you and your whānau are up to date with immunisations and immune to measles,” says Dr Neil de Wet, Medical Offi cer of Health for Toi Te Ora Public Health. People born before 1969 are considered to be immune because measles used to be quite common, but anyone born from 1969 onwards who is unsure if they have been immunised should check with their doctor. “Contact your family doctor or practice nurse if you or your child needs to be immunised – it’s never too late to catch up,” says Dr de Wet. The vaccine that protects against measles is the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. “The MMR provides very effective protection against measles and is completely free for children and adults. MMR is given in two doses, usually at 15 months and then four years of age, as part of the routine childhood immunisations but can be given later to anyone who has missed these vaccinations,” says Dr de Wet. Measles is highly infectious and is spread from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune. “The fi rst early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough. After three to fi ve days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body,” A flu shot can reduce severity of infection Immunisation is the best protection against infl uenza and has been proven to reduce the severity of the infection in populations most at risk of complications, a recent study published in Eurosurveillance has found. Infl uenza immunisation is recommended and FREE for people who are most likely to get very sick, be hospitalised or even die if they catch infl uenza: • pregnant women, • people aged 65 years or older, • people aged under 65 years with diabetes, most heart or lung conditions and some other illnesses, and • children aged 4 years or under who have had a stay in hospital for asthma or other breathing problems. Flu shots are available from April to December 31 each year (subject to vaccine availability). Check out www.fi ghtfl u.co.nz to fi nd out whether you qualify for free fl u immunisation or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.  Flu can be anywhere, so you can easily catch it. Being generally fi t and healthy will not always protect you from the fl u virus.  Immunisation is the best protection against infl uenza. It naturally boosts your immune system to fi ght the virus when it attacks. Even if you still catch the fl u after immunisation, your symptoms are less likely to be severe.  Infl uenza is not the same as a cold. It is a more serious disease that can also make other existing medical conditions worse.  Get immunised to stop the spread of fl u around your community. Even if you don’t feel sick, you could still be infected with the virus and pass it on to others.  The infl uenza vaccine is a prescription medicine. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about the benefi ts and possible risks. And, if you’re between 65 and 80 years old, ask if you’re also eligible for free shingles immunisation. says Dr de Wet. Measles can be serious with around one in ten people who get measles needing to be hospitalised. “If you think you or someone in your family may have measles, stay at home and phone your doctor so that they can make arrangements to see you and assess you safely and without infecting other people, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice,” advises Dr de Wet. For more information about measles visit the Toi Te Ora Public Health website at: www.toiteora.govt.nz/measles Protected together – measles is very contagious, so we protect one another when we get immunised. Make sure you are immune to measles and so protect you, your whānau and your community. Growing whānau knowledge through Hapū Hauora Hapū Hauora is an online resource available at www. hapuhauorahealth.nz which aims to support Māori health and hapū wellbeing, using language familiar to Māori that is perfect for the marae setting. The initial idea and content for the website was developed in consultation with three Eastern Bay of Plenty hapū who were keen to see relevant and easily available information that supports whānau wellness and hapū aspirations. In 2017, three kete matauranga (baskets of knowledge) were launched providing information on oranga kai (healthy food), auahi kore (smokefree), and te karonga i ngā momo mate (avoiding infections). Each kete includes resources, tips, interactive tools and templates that support healthy behaviours in the home and on the marae. In 2018, two further kete matauranga were launched to include information encouraging physical activity (korikori tinana) and reducing the harm from alcohol (whakakore waipiro). Marae play an important role in infl uencing the health and wellness of whānau and hapū. We know that many whānau, hapū and marae already lead the way living healthier and hap- pier lives. We’re excited to share these stories on our website and help inspire other hapū. If you'd like more information about Hapū Hauora, or would like to korero about getting support for your marae, visit the Hapū Hauora website. Syphilis is on the increase - know how to stay safe and when to be tested An increase in the number of syphilis cases across New Zealand, and including the Bay of Plenty, has prompted a sexual health expert to call for people to know what they can do to stay safe and when to be tested. “We are in the midst of a syphilis epidemic and the number of cases has increased dramatically in the last fi ve years,” says Dr Massimo Giola, Sexual Health Physician for Bay of Plenty District Health Board. In 2012 there were 80 confi rmed cases of syphilis in New Zealand. For 2017, that number had grown to 477. Tests for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are free, so if you are in a new relationship and need to have an STI check, or if you are concerned that you may be at risk, call your family doctor or visit a sexual health clinic for confi dential advice and testing. The early symptoms of syphilis include a sore or ulcer at the site of infection, usually the genitals, anus or mouth. Not everyone has symptoms and the sore may be painless and hidden from view so may not be noticed. The early symptoms such as a sore will disappear on their own but without the right antibiotic treatment the infection can stay in the body for years and later cause serious illness affecting the heart, brain, nerves and joints. “The most worrying type of syphilis infection we are seeing, particularly here in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes region, is congenital syphilis where a pregnant woman passes the Dr Massimo Giola says New Zealand is in the midst of a syphilis epidemic. infection on to her unborn baby. We had four cases of congenital syphilis in 2017 in New Zealand and four cases again in 2018,” says Dr Giola. If a woman is infected with syphilis before or during pregnancy, and is not diagnosed and treated, there is a very high risk of passing that infection on to the baby. This may have devastating effects for the baby including stillbirth or permanent damage to the eyes, hearing, brain, bones, or other organs. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to see your midwife or doctor early in pregnancy as a test for syphilis is one of the routine blood tests done in pregnancy. Early diagnosis in pregnancy allows effective antibiotic treatment to be given and so it can prevent the baby being infected or harmed. Syphilis is preventable – with safer sexual practices such as using condoms, knowing your risk, and getting tested if you may be at risk, you can be confi dent in keeping yourself safe. For more information including advice on getting tested see: www.health.govt.nz/syphilis And for more information on safer sex practices see: www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/ sexual-health/safer-sex-and-condoms