Flu rates plummet amid Covid response

Dr Nick Baker says there have been just seven cases of influenza. Photo: File.

Flu rates have dropped dramatically as people take extra care to protect themselves from Covid-19.

Improved hygiene practices such as wearing masks and handwashing have helped keep flu at bay.

Increased immunisation levels mean no one has been hospitalised with flu since January across the Top of the South.

Nelson Marlborough Health chief medical officer Dr Nick Baker says there have been far fewer confirmed cases of influenza in 2020 than in 2019.

“People’s willingness to do simple things that protect them from catching and spreading Covid-19 has protected them from the flu, colds and other viruses such as gastro bugs,” he says.

In, 2019 there were 217 cases of hospital-related flu cases in the Top of the South compared to only 7 this year.

Nick says there have also been less instances of flu and flu-like illnesses in the community.

“GP-based influenza-like-illness surveillance and testing methods changed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 response.

“From the more limited amount of testing done, however, there have been no positive influenza results recorded by GPs.”

Immunisation started much earlier this year as part of the Government’s response to protect people from contracting both influenza and Covid-19.

“In the Nelson Marlborough region we also worked hard to increase immunisation uptake – especially for Māori and Pasifika, refugees, people aged 65 and older, people with existing health conditions and children with health conditions and their whānau members,” Nick says.

“We also had successful immunisation equity this year, Māori, Pasifika and refugees participated in higher-than-usual numbers.”

By July 3, more than 60,400 vaccines had been distributed for use in the Nelson Marlborough region.

This compares to 50,108 by the same time in 2019 and 46,699 by the same time in 2018.

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