A cold is different from influenza. The flu
usually develops more quickly. You will have fever and muscle
aches within a few hours and will generally feel sicker than
with a cold. John Lewis and Eileen Goodwin
Abbotsford School pupils Harry Bond (left) and Layla Barton
(both 5) wash their hands in a bid to keep winter bugs at
bay. Photo by Linda Robertson
If you thought there was a lot of illness around Dunedin
lately, the bad news is the worst may be yet to come.
Environmental Science and Research nationwide statistics show
the annual influenza season is just beginning.
In the past week, a total of 121 consultations for
influenza-like illness were reported from 53 general
practices in 16 out of 20 district health board regions.
This gives a weekly consultation rate of 44.2 per 100,000
Based on 2012 records, the number of people reporting
influenza-like illness could more than triple over the next
Reported cases in district health boards around the country
are already well ahead of those reported this time last year.
Health experts are predicting the peak of the flu season will
be later arriving this year and, as a result, the New Zealand
Government has extended free flu vaccinations for the elderly
and others at increased risk of serious flu complications by
one month, until August 31.
Laboratories are reporting influenza A (H1N1) - the strain
which caused the pandemic in 2009 and 2010 - is the main
virus causing flu sickness across Otago and the rest of the
country this year.
Bayfield High School principal Judith Forbes said the school
was hit by a bout of bad colds and gastroenteritis at the end
of last term, which affected most pupils.
It was one of the worst periods of illness the school had
experienced in recent years, with up to 30 pupils a day off
school for between two days and a week, she said.
Mrs Forbes said illness was minimal again at the school, but
she was preparing for the impending peak.
Otago's largest school, King's High School, has also had
issues with ''coughs and sniffles''.
Principal Dan Reddiex said this year the same number of
pupils had been off sick as in previous years, but they were
taking longer to recover.
''Normally, pupils are absent for 1 to 2 days at this time of
year, but it's up to five days at the moment.''
Otago Primary Principals' Association chairwoman Stephanie
Madden said the number of primary pupils off school around
Otago with winter bugs this year was on a par with previous
years but she, too, was concerned the winter illness season
was just getting started.
Most pupils at her school, Abbotsford School, were hit by
gastroenteritis at the end of last term, which saw up to 16
pupils per day absent for up to two days.
Pupils were being advised on good hygiene practices in a bid
to keep germs and viruses at bay.
''In term two and three, we give reminders about good
hand-washing, staying home if you are unwell - those sorts of
Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Dr
Keith Reid said about 140 people consulted with their general
practitioner across the DHB's region last week for symptoms
which might be influenza, which was typical of a ''moderate
''The trend is still upwards and the peak has not yet been
''Usually, peak levels of influenza would occur in the next
week or so but the peak occurred late in the season last
Since the start of the flu season, there had been nine cases
requiring hospitalisation in the Southern district and some
of those required intensive care.
He said the present vaccination included the H1N1 strain and
was the best way to obtain protection against influenza.
As well as vaccination, it was important other control
measures were followed, he said.
These included staying home if sick to avoid spreading
infection; using tissues to catch sneezes and coughs; binning
tissues immediately after use and then washing hands; and
sneezing into your elbow.