Winter has arrived — with bugs
Hot soup, scarves, blankets, higher power bills and bugs ... Hawke's Bay has been plunged into winter and it's going to be a cold one.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board has launched its Beat the Bugs programme and is encouraging the public to make use of it.
Many more people are having flu vaccinations than last year — 2950 compared with 250.
Hawke's Bay Hospital Emergency Department head Mark Barlow is pleased with that result.
"It's good that vaccinations are being done out in the local community and some of the community pharmacies are offering vaccinations to people over 65 and to pregnant women as well," he said.
"So we recommend that people who are getting flu or are at high risk of getting flu should have the flu vaccine."
Dr Barlow said more people presented to the Emergency Department during winter.
"It's common to see numbers increase over winter. It doesn't just affect us, it affects general practitioners, emergency centres — if we're struggling for capacity, then other centres will be as well.
"We just want people to be sensible this winter. Take your medication if you're on any, especially if you have asthma which can always worsen during the winter months.
"Don't go to work if you're sick. Coughing and spluttering all over people is just going to spread it around."
Dr Barlow said a large number of children and elderly passed through the hospital during winter.
"In kids we notice things like asthma and bronchiolitis, so a lot of respiratory tract and viral respiratory infections. They're certainly more common among the younger age group.
"The elderly as well, as they have multiple conditions or comorbidities, so if they get flu or a chest infection it could turn into pneumonia or they need oxygen or hospital treatment."
Children, Women and Communities service paediatrician and medical director Dr Philip Moore said despite children having a strong immune system, it was vitally important they stayed healthy during winter.
"Children's immune systems are fully operational from about their first birthday. Before then they are more vulnerable to common viral infections.
"Lots of fresh fruit and veges will help children's immune systems function well and eliminate any need for vitamin supplements or immune boosters."
The DHB is also asking elderly patients to keep healthy during winter. Geriatrician Dr Lucy Fergus said it was equally important for the elderly to have a flu vaccination.
"Older people are much more vulnerable to common winter illnesses, as age can impact on the immune system, and they pick up colds, pneumonia, flu and gastroenteritis more easily," she said. "It's very important not to wait before getting medical advice or help.
"If an older person becomes unwell and stops eating and drinking, they may need to stop taking some usual medications temporarily — for example, blood pressure medications and diuretics, as these can make people dehydrated when they are unwell."
GPs and medical practitioners are encouraging people to make use of the afterhours practices. Communications manager Anna Kirk said useful information are on the DHB website.
"There's plenty of information about our medical after hours on there. There's a range of GPs that are open after hours. City Medical in Napier is open 24/7, in Hastings they stay open until 9pm," she said.
"If you're getting sick and it's getting worse, you should probably get medical care before it worsens rather than wait. You might end up in the hospital."
Hawke's Bay Hospital head of Emergency Department (ED) Mark Barlow and ED nurse practitioner Sharon Payne talk about the flu virus.