• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

The virus causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract.

Jul 1, 2021

A surge in viral winter illnesses is creating havoc in Auckland emergency departments – with concerns on the front-line things will only get busier.
By Stephen Forbes, Local Democrcy Reporter. 
Public hospitals and primary healthcare providers in the Auckland region have been overwhelmed by patients with viruses, including RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus).
The virus causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. For healthy adults and older children, symptoms are often mild and are very similar to the common cold. However, for infants the virus can lead to more serious illnesses, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
Counties Manukau Health confirmed its hospital’s emergency department has been under pressure, with 415 people coming through the doors on Monday alone. The usual daily number is around 300.
A spokesperson said the majority of presentations at the emergency department are winter viruses.
“Last year, Covid-19 precautions were front of mind for people and as such the number of colds going around were minimal. However, with greater face-to-face contact taking place this year we are seeing a significant upswing in these symptoms.
“We are calling on the community to support the hospital by seeking the right care for their condition and leaving the ED free for those who need it most. Most times a GP or family doctor can provide medical advice and prescriptions to manage acute injuries, illnesses and long-term conditions.”
South Seas Healthcare Trust clinical director, Dr Andrew Chan Mow, said it had also seen more children with respiratory infections since winter started.
“I think we got used to the reprieve from winter coughs and colds last year because of the Covid-19 lockdowns. But the demand this year is definitely one of the busiest we have seen.”
Chan Mow said the south Auckland-based primary health provider cannot test patients for different respiratory viruses. But he said RSV is a common cause of viral upper respiratory infections in children.
Auckland District Health Board’s Dr Mike Shepherd said both the Auckland City and Starship Hospital emergency departments have seen higher than usual numbers of patients with respiratory illnesses.
“We’re asking the public for their help and patience during this time,” Shepherd said. “Nothing is more important than getting help at the right time for your whnau, so if you need to come to hospital then please do so.
“But we want whnau to be aware there may be a longer wait at our emergency departments so that they can plan for this.”
He said staff were now expecting a very busy July and August.
“In response to the increased demand and to keep on top of waiting times, we’re implementing our escalation plans, increasing staffing, bringing in help from other parts of the hospitals and opening up extra inpatient beds.”
A spokesperson for Waitemat DHB said it had seen a noticeable increase in patients with RSV at both North Shore and Waitakere hospitals.
An Auckland Regional Public Health Service spokesperson said the region had very low rates of influenza-like illnesses last year.
And the increase in viruses, like RSV in 2021, is likely to include people who did not get sick last year and did not develop immunity, plus those infected this year.
Royal New Zealand College of GPs president Dr Samantha Murton said it was the time of year when viruses struck.
“This year things seem to be a bit more rampant than previous years,” she said. “But it is at this time of year that we typically get these viruses, just before the school holidays in July.”
“I think last year we were lulled into a false sense of security and there was very little travel overseas.”
But Murton said with children now back at school and more face to face contact viruses were always going to spread. And she said the opening of the travel bubble with Australia could also be a factor.
She said the best advice she could give was for people to stay away from others if they were sick, wash their hands and try to contain coughs and sneezes.