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Christchurch GP says spike in winter illness is worst he's seen in 30 years

Newshub logo Newshub 2/07/2022 Ashleigh Yates
Watch: Christchurch GP says winter illness workload is the worst he's experienced in his 30-year career. © Video: Newshub Photo; Getty Images Watch: Christchurch GP says winter illness workload is the worst he's experienced in his 30-year career.

A Christchurch GP says the winter illness workload is the worst he's experienced in his 30-year career.

It comes as another common winter sickness - respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) - has started to be detected across the country, adding to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

Dr Angus Chambers is used to dealing with winter bugs but this season it's like no other.

"This year would be the worst we've seen," Dr Chambers told Newshub.

The number of patients seeking care at Riccarton Clinic and After Hours Medical Centre is far greater due to influenza, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Dr Chambers said primary care workers are finding it extremely difficult.

"Long hours, extra days, staff off sick, themselves sick, it's stressful, it's hard work. We don't mind hard work but it's not sustainable at the moment."

He said these problems are exacerbated by dire staff shortages.

"There's not as many general practitioners, people can't see their GP, can't enrol and the emergency departments are full."

"We have seen expectational influenza cases in the last month. It's spread to many centres and especially in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and Dunedin," said Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) virologist Dr Sue Huang.

ESR said the highly-contagious virus RSV has started to be detected. The most recent weekly data shows four cases in both Auckland and Christchurch and one in Dunedin.

Paediatric infectious disease specialist Emma Best told Newshub: "RSV, we do see surges each winter. We missed a season with COVID lockdowns in 2020 and it came back with a bit of vengeance last year in 2021 and we expect to see a winter surge of RSV cases again. It's a common virus of young children, particularly under-ones."

Christchurch GP says spike in winter illness is worst he's seen in 30 years
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Flutracker is an online survey where people report the symptoms they may - or may not be feeling - each week.

The most recent report shows it's our youngest tamariki aged five and under that are experiencing flu-like symptoms of a fever and cough the most.

Best said parents should take up the option to immunise their young ones to prevent them from getting the flu.

"We now have a free influenza vaccine for those aged between three and 12. Definitely take the opportunity to have that influenza vaccination if they can."

One action that could stop the increasing burden of sickness on our hospitals. 

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