Updated vaccine coming for NZ after deadly 'Aussie Flu' hits Northern Hemisphere

A deadly strain of the flu has been killing people in the United States and Europe and health officials here are gearing up in case it heads to our shores. 

Around 400 people every year in New Zealand die from the flu, or complications with it. 

Authorities have upgraded the flu vaccine to try and fight the new fatal strain, but they don't know yet whether it'll work. 

"It is very likely that this strain will come to New Zealand. We're a global community, the flu virus loves to travel," said Dr Nikki Turner, from New Zealand's Immunisation Advisory Centre.

The life-threatening flu strain is A (H3N2), which has been nicknamed Aussie Flu. 

Last winter around 230,000 Australians were sick with it, and it killed nearly 750 people.  

It spread to other countries, and it has so far killed 191 people in Britain and is killing around 100 Americans each week.  

It's the worst outbreak in the US in nearly a decade.

Health authorities are blaming an ineffective vaccine for the rise in flu cases and deaths overseas.  

"Viruses tend to change all the time so you have to catch up with them. So a lot of the time we get it right, and we get good response to the vaccine, and every now and then the virus changes a bit quicker, a bit more than we expected and we're behind the eight ball," Dr Turner said.

In New Zealand, an updated vaccine will be available from late March. 

In theory it should protect us, but sudden mutations can cause complications. 

"We're hoping that if this is the right vaccine strain, then it should match well. There's no guarantee until you see it arriving in the country." 

Health officials in New Zealand are now meeting to plan for a surge in flu cases as we head into winter. 

By Arrun Soma

Health officials in NZ are gearing up, upgrading the flu vaccine, but they don't yet know if it will work. Source: 1 NEWS

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