Worst of region's colds, flu on the wane - GP

The cold and flu season was much worse this winter than last, but it seems to be abating, a Nelson doctor says.

GP spokesman Dr Graham Loveridge said that over winter there were many cases of the flu which made a number of people quite sick. Both young and elderly had been admitted to Nelson Hospital for treatment.

"The medical ward was struggling for a while with all the extra admissions," he said.

"From August onwards we certainly saw a lot of increases of respiratory infections. There were colds and flus that were lingering for three or four weeks."

Cases seemed to be abating now though, and with the school holidays here things should quieten down, Dr Loveridge said.

"Often school holidays are a circuit breaker for these things - kids are out of the classrooms, the days are longer and it's getting warmer."

Nelson Marlborough Medical Officer of Health Dr Jill Sherwood said while the clinics they regularly collected data from had shown an earlier increase in flu levels, they had not picked up anything recently.

The district health board collects data from three general practices around the region as an overview of what's happening in the community.

That information then feeds in to the national database to keep track of what illnesses and trends are forming around the country.

Two weeks ago, a group of people in a local rest home had contracted a flu-like illness and the rest home contacted Public Health, she said.

The illness was confirmed to be influenza, and was one of the strains covered by the vaccine offered this year.

This is the most common strain identified in New Zealand this year and is different from the most common strain seen in the past three years, which was the HINI pandemic strain.

The same influenza strain was later confirmed to be present in another rest home, Dr Sherwood said.

Older people may not build as many antibodies to the flu vaccine as younger people, which meant it was important, particularly in rest homes, that as many people as possible received the vaccine, as the flu virus could spread between some of those who had been vaccinated as well as those who were unvaccinated, she said.

"It's really important they work hard to have residents and staff receive the vaccine, and have measures in place to prevent spread from or to visitors."

Because older people's immune system doesn't work as well, they are more likely to get secondary complications, such as bacterial pneumonia as well, Dr Sherwood said.

The Nelson Mail