Flu in Whangārei has ‘definite spike’ over last four weeks

Respiratory-related illnesses could be making a comeback as winter ends and spring begins. Photo / 123rf

A Northland GP has seen a “definite spike” in influenza cases over the last few weeks, prompting a timely reminder to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene.

Dr Tim Cunningham of Central Family Health Care says the lessons we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic remain the same for other illnesses, including good hand hygiene, staying home if you are unwell, and vaccinating.

Cunningham’s reminder comes after stark warnings from GPs across the country over the last few months to vaccinate.

Winter and spring are a worst nightmare for parents as the dreaded influx of coughs, colds and other contagions descend upon the household, most often brought home from early childhood centres where germs are rampant.


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Cunningham said he has witnessed a spike in influenza over the last four weeks, as well as Covid-19 still “bouncing around the community”.

Cunningham said wet weather has likely contributed to the seemingly endless spread of illness, particularly as people have been in overcrowded spaces.

Working parents often feel the pressure to have their child at school or daycare when they are unwell, but this is a “significant factor” in the spread of germs, he said.

“If your child is unwell with a fever, runny nose, cough, those children tend to be quite contagious for the first five days of their illness.”


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The lessons we learned from Covid remain the same for other illnesses, says Tim Cunningham. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The lessons we learned from Covid remain the same for other illnesses, says Tim Cunningham. Photo / Michael Cunningham

But he also reassured parents that the constant slew of illnesses is a “normal” part of childhood, particularly for under 2-year-olds. That age group tends to experience a viral infection about once a month.

Cunningham said vaccination was key to reducing the risk of severe symptoms.

“Unfortunately, the flu vaccine is very effective for six months and does wane after that, so that’s why we vaccinate in summer and prepare you for autumn and winter,” he explained.

Children under 5 are not eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to a spokesperson from Te Whatu Ora Te Tai Tōkerau, the season’s changing temperature and weather conditions lead to an increased presentation and admission for respiratory illnesses.

Such illnesses include influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), which hospitalises about 3000 tamariki a year, as well as Covid-19 and whooping cough.

Though a Covid-19 vaccination is not available to children under 5, Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand offered the following tips for parents and caregivers.


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