The Ministry of Health's Director of Public Health welcomes the introduction of a new way to track influenza online in New Zealand.
This year, the Ministry of Health is working together with Australia in the FluTracking initiative – an online health monitoring system designed to track flu-like symptoms across the country.
While health officials are busily preparing for this year’s influenza season, which includes the distribution of this year’s vaccine to hospitals, pharmacies and general practices around the country, this new online tool will help New Zealanders monitor the spread of the flu.
“Every week during the influenza season, participants will be sent a link to answer a couple of simple flu-related questions,” says Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay.
“The survey will take less than 10 seconds to complete and will help researchers to determine the onset of flu by region, the effectiveness of the vaccine in New Zealand and the severity of the influenza season. This information will be used to inform planning ahead of future influenza seasons.”
“That’s why it’s crucial that as many people as possible sign up to FluTracking(external link) – the survey takes little to no time to complete but provides invaluable insights to those monitoring flu this year.”
This year’s vaccine protects against four strains of influenza.
“It’s also worth noting that the flu vaccine is free to people aged 65 and older, pregnant women (at any trimester) and people with chronic or serious health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer or severe asthma.”
Dr McElnay acknowledges New Zealand already has a comprehensive surveillance system in place when it comes to monitoring influenza. And she’s keen to reiterate that FluTracking is just one of those programmes – but it is the only one that lets people participate directly.
“Individuals and families can make a real contribution through FluTracking. And as with any new online tool, the more people who participate, the more accurate the data across New Zealand will be.”
What are you waiting for – sign up and track the flu, so we can help you.
FluTracking was developed in Australia in 2006 and in that time, has gained thousands of voluntary participants there.
The online survey takes less than 10 seconds to complete every week, and asks participants whether or not they’ve had a cough or a fever in the past week and whether they’ve had the annual influenza vaccine.
Each week after participant surveys are completed, the data is collated into a report.
The reports show survey statistics, including respondent numbers for the week, and indicates rates of Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) symptoms in New Zealand and also in individual regions where there is a sufficient sample size of respondents.
This report is sent weekly to the Ministry of Health to contribute to the overall data picture of ILI in New Zealand, identifying influenza trends and hotspots around the country.
It’s important to note that all information provided is kept confidential and only aggregated data (by regions) will be published in the weekly reports. At no time will your information be shared with any other agencies.