Influenza – or the flu – is a virus that spreads quickly from person to person. Symptoms include fever, chills, aches, runny nose, a cough and stomach upset. Immunisation is your best defence against the flu.

How is it spread?

Influenza is easily spread and anyone can catch it. It is passed on by droplets when people cough and sneeze and touch infected surfaces.

Stop the spread of flu

If you are unwell, stay at home until you are better.

Follow basic hygiene practices:

  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and dry them for 20 seconds – or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – then put the tissue in a lined bin.

Get the influenza vaccination from your nurse, doctor or pharmacist, even if you are fit and healthy.


If you are aged 65 or over, pregnant, or have a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease that puts you at greater risk of influenza, you can get vaccinated free from 18 March 2020, at a general practice or vaccinating pharmacy.

The list of eligible health conditions is available at the Fight Flu website.

Healthcare and other frontline (eg emergency response) workers can also be vaccinated from 18 March - employers generally fund this for their staff.

For everyone else, influenza vaccination will be available from late April 2020.

As part of its response to COVID-19, the Ministry of Health is prioritising vaccination of those at greatest risk of influenza in 2020.

While influenza vaccination does not prevent COVID-19, influenza is a serious illness that causes hundreds of deaths each winter in New Zealand, and thousands of hospital admissions and doctor's visits. Improving the population's protection against influenza will improve our ability to manage any increased demand on health services as a result of COVID-19.


Flutracking is an online health surveillance system used to detect the potential spread of influenza. By taking part, you’ll not only be contributing to scientific research, you will be helping to track influenza in your local community and nation-wide. Visit to sign up.

For more information



Further information

Last updated 8 April 2020.