Diabetes and COVID-19: Urgent action necessary to prevent seasonal influenza this winter

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Diabetes and COVID-19: Urgent action necessary to prevent seasonal influenza this winter

Media release from the New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes
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Preventing seasonal influenza among people with diabetes this winter is paramount. People with diabetes are a high-risk group for seasonal influenza. Currently, unlike Covid-19, influenza can be prevented through vaccination. Dr Helen Snell, President of the New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes (NZSSD) is strongly urging all those with diabetes to be vaccinated as soon as possible. She said “Preventing influenza is especially important this year with the Covid-19 pandemic in our midst. Immunisation is the best protection against influenza.”

“The particular concern this year is that we do not know how many hospital beds will be required for those with Covid-19.” said Dr Snell. Nationally, much effort and resource is being directed towards eliminating Covid-19, but we do not have a crystal ball. “We do not know how bad the Covid-19 situation is going to get or whether there will be sufficient hospital beds for those who need to be hospitalised, but we do know that vaccination can prevent influenza.” cautions Dr Snell.

Diabetes is a common long term condition affecting many people and families across New Zealand, and influenza is a significant public health issue particularly during the winter months. Up to one-quarter of New Zealanders are infected with influenza each year, and those with diabetes are more susceptible to developing more severe influenza and the complications of influenza. Dr Snell warns that “people with diabetes are more likely to get very sick and be hospitalised if they catch influenza. Any infection, including influenza, makes it more difficult to control blood glucose, and increases the risk of acute complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis.”

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the influenza immunisation programme began earlier than usual for high-risk groups, including those with diabetes. This was done to protect as many people as possible before influenza begins circulating widely in the community, in addition to Covid-19. The influenza immunisation programme is available from general practitioners and pharmacists. Influenza immunisation is highly recommended and FREE for people with diabetes.

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