Hawke’s Bay health officials are warning of a rise in influenza-like-illness across the region and are advising people to protect themselves by having an influenza immunisation or, if already unwell, ensuring regular hand washing and social distancing to avoid spreading the flu to others.
Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Eyre said today there had been a noticeable spike in the number of flu-like presentations at general practices, health centres and Hawke’s Bay Hospital over the past week – in line with nationwide trends.
The DHB’s public health surveillance team had also detected an increase in school absenteeism and staff sickness, she said.
“This is consistent with the start of the winter Influenza season with Hawke’s Bay now reaching threshold levels for seasonal flu-like illness,” said Dr Eyre.
“The best way people can protect themselves and loved ones from influenza is to get immunised.
“Being immunised is your best possible defence against this virus so we would encourage people who have not yet been vaccinated to book an appointment with their doctor, nearest health centre or selected pharmacy.”
For those most at risk, the vaccine is available for free and includes:
- adults and children with long-term health conditions www.fightflu.co.nz
- pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy) www.fightflu.co.nz/pregnancy
- and people aged 65 years and older.
Influenza virus infects the nose, throat and lungs and is normally worse than a cold. Symptoms can come on suddenly and include a fever and a cough with other possible symptoms such as chills, muscle aches, runny nose, cough and stomach upsets.
Older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of developing serious complications from influenza, such as pneumonia.
Dr Eyre said the flu spreads quickly from person to person through touch and through the air.
“It is important people seek medical advice early if they are concerned or in the high risk group,” advised Dr Eyre.
“For others who are unwell but feel they can self-manage, the message is to please stay away from work or school, get plenty of rest and keep your fluids up until you are well again.” Influenza affects up to one in five New Zealanders every year.
The flow-on effect of flu is also affecting Hawke’s Bay Hospital which is extremely busy. Dr John Gommans – Chief Medical and Dental Officer – Hospital says it is important that people Choose Well if needing medical help and avoid coming to the hospital’s Emergency Department unless it is an emergency.