Hawke’s Bay District Health Board launched its Winter Wellness campaign this week encouraging people to prioritise their health and take public health advice seriously.
Winter is usually a busy time for healthcare providers, but this season is already looking to be especially challenging with high numbers of influenza needing hospitalisation alongside COVID-19.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Nick Jones is encouraging everyone to get their flu jab to avoid getting very unwell and potentially needing hospital-level care this winter.
Today, there are 33 people in Hawke’s Bay Hospital with influenza, with one of these needing intensive care support. This has risen from 10 on Monday. Three of the influenza cases in hospital are pregnant women which highlights the much higher risks of flu complications for mothers and their babies. There are also 14 people in hospital with COVID-19.
“The flu jab is available now at your GP, pharmacy or hauora provider and is free for pregnant women, Māori and Pasifika people aged 55 and over, everyone 65 and over and people with long-term medical conditions and children who have been in hospital with respiratory illness such as asthma.
“Symptoms come on suddenly and it can keep you in bed for a week or more. It can give you pneumonia and in severe cases means a hospital stay, or even death.
“It is especially important pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions get their free flu jab as they are more likely to become seriously ill from influenza.”
Dr Jones said COVID-19 was still circulating widely in the community, and with the re-opening of the borders it was possible other COVID-19 variants would emerge.
“Get a booster if you are eligible, stay home if you’re unwell, test for COVID-19 and report all RAT results on: https://mycovidrecord.health.nz/.”
“If the RAT is negative but you still feel unwell it might be flu so don’t ignore it.”
Call Healthline for free 24/7 on 0800-611-116 to speak with a registered nurse or call your GP for a telephone consultation. If you’re struggling to breathe or it’s an emergency call 111.
Dr Jones said most people with either COVID-19, influenza or other respiratory illnesses would be able to manage at home by resting, keeping up their fluids and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Also, given the rapid increase in influenza and the ongoing COVID outbreak, now is the time everyone needs to ensure they are all following orange level requirements for mask wearing inside. General measures such as handwashing and coughing into elbows are equally critical to stop the spread of viruses such as COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
“These simple things play a big part in limiting the spread of infectious illnesses," Dr Jones said.