News & Events
Help keep RSV from spreading
A common winter virus called Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is currently spreading across New Zealand. The virus affects all age groups but is especially severe for babies/ pēpi and infants less than one year old. It is very infectious and can easily pass from person to person through coughing and sneezing.
What signs and symptoms to look out for
RSV has very similar symptoms to a bad cold or flu. These include:
- a runny nose;
- decrease in appetite;
- a fever – usually mid; and
- wheezing or noisy breathing.
Please look out for the symptoms in children under the age of one especially, and contact your GP team or healthcare provider for advice if you are concerned.
In Canterbury: You can call your usual GP 24/7 for free advice on what to do and where to go.
On the West Coast: You can call your GP during normal hours and HealthLine (0800 611 116) after hours for free advice on what to do and where to go.
- Find out more about Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) [Ministry of Health].
When to seek urgent health advice
Parents and caregivers should seek urgent medical advice if their baby or infant has RSV symptoms and:
- is under three months old;
- is breathing fast, noisily or is having to use extra effort to breathe;
- looks pale and unwell;
- is taking less than half their normal feeds;
- is vomiting; or
- has not had a wet nappy for more than six hours.
Parents and caregivers should call 111 for an ambulance if a child:
- has blue lips and tongue;
- has severe difficulty breathing;
- is becoming very sleepy and not easy to wake up;
- is floppy; or
- has breathing that is not regular, or they pause in their breathing.
Simple things you can do to help stop the spread of RSV and other winter illnesses
- Keep children home if they’re sick and stay home if you are not well.
- Wash your hands often with soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- Wear a mask or face covering on public transport or when you cannot physically distance from strangers.
Visitor restrictions at Canterbury and West Coast hospitals
RSV can be very serious for young children, newborns and vulnerable patients in hospital.
So Canterbury and West Coast DHBs request that due to the ongoing high levels of viral respiratory illness in the community:
- Visiting is only for essential purposes.
- Visitors should stay home if they are unwell and do not need urgent care.
- Only one visitor will be allowed at a time per patient and no children are able to visit. A support person for someone with a disability would be in addition to the allowed visitor.
- Visitors need to bring their own face mask or face covering to wear when visiting.
Exceptions will be made on compassionate grounds, and should be discussed with the Charge Nurse Manager.
Source: Canterbury DHB media release (9th July 2021).
Give your cervix some screen time
Young New Zealand women are being encouraged to look after their cervix in a powerful media campaign designed to encourage regular cervical screening from 25 years of age.
The ‘Give your cervix some screen time’ campaign aims to help anyone with a cervix feel informed, empowered and motivated to protect their body and future health through regular cervical screening.
The cervix is tucked away – out of sight, out of mind. It’s easy to ignore and forget. But we want to change that.
Most cervical cancer can be prevented with regular cervical screens. Cervical screening also protects your future reproductive health, whakapapa and whānau wellbeing.
Watch other informative videos about cervical screening, such as about what to expect when you go.
Source: Health Promotion Agency.
Information on COVID-19
It is not time for us to ease up on our precautions against COVID-19. We’ve been through a lot, and we will get through this too. We’re stronger together.
Protect yourself and others from COVID-19
Stay home if you feel unwell. Isolate wherever you are and call Healthline (0800 358 5453) about a free COVID-19 test. Getting tested will help keep your community safe.
Keep a track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen. This will help health services to quickly stop any possible spread.
Scan QR codes using the NZ COVID Tracer app – available from the Apple Store or Google Play- and enable Bluetooth tracking on your device.
Use the NZ COVID Tracer booklet – available in English and other languages – or keep a diary or calendar if you can’t use the app.
Wash your hands with soap and water often – for at least 20 seconds – and dry thoroughly. This kills the virus by bursting its protective bubble.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow. This will keep the virus off your hands so you won’t spread it to other people and make them sick too.
Regularly clean surfaces that get touched frequently.
Maintain physical distancing. Keep a safe distance of 2 metres from people you don’t know while out and about. This will help minimise spread if community transmission returns.
Wear a face covering when on public transport or a domestic flight. You will be keeping your community safe by covering for each other.
Update on the COVID-19 Immunisation Programme
The COVID-19 Immunisation Programme is continuing to work at pace. The COVID-19 vaccine will be for everyone aged 16 years and over – regardless of their visa or citizenship status.
The vaccine will be free for everyone and no one will miss out. Having the vaccine will not be mandatory for Kiwis. The best way to protect yourself, your kaumātua and whānau is to get vaccinated.
Vaccinations will be available at a range of locations, including pop-up centres, GPs, Māori and Pacific healthcare providers, mobile clinics and community clinics.
Who can currently book a COVID vaccination
The following people are able to book their COVID vaccine appointments:
- People in Group 2 – high-risk frontline workers and people living in high-risk places. This includes people living and working in long-term residential environments (not including halls of residence or boarding schools) and people who care for older Māori and Pacific people;
- People in Group 3 – those over 65, with an underlying health condition or disability, pregnant or living in a custodial setting; and
- People aged 60 years and over in Group 4 can now book their vaccinations – effective from Wednesday 28th July 2021.
- You also can ring the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm 7 days a week) and make a booking over the phone. A carer or relative can book a vaccination on your behalf. Translation services are available if you need them. Booking your vaccination over the phone will take around 15 minutes.
It’s a good idea to have your National Health Index (NHI) number ready when you book – to make the booking process quicker. You’ll find your NHI number on a prescription or prescription receipt, x-ray or test result, or a letter from the hospital.
The next age band is people in Group 4 aged 55 and over – bookings for this age band will open on Wednesday 11th August 2021.
Anyone in the wider population can also visit Book My Vaccine and register their details. “Once bookings are open for your age group you will be sent an email or text letting you know it’s time to reserve your spot,” says Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
You can only apply for an early COVID-19 vaccine if you have an urgent need to travel outside of New Zealand. This is only for compassionate reasons or those of national significance. You’ll need to meet specific criteria.
What to do if you feel unwell
Stay home if you’re unwell. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise.
Call your medical practice or Healthline (0800 35 85 453) if you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms. This is to check if you fit the criteria and need to get tested for COVID-19.
The symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- a new or worsening cough;
- shortness of breath;
- a sore throat;
- sneezing and a runny nose; or
- a temporary loss of smell.
Some people may present with less typical symptoms such as only: fever, diarrhoea, headache, myalgia (muscle pain), nausea or vomiting, or confusion or irritability.
Symptoms can take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. The virus can be passed onto others before someone knows they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.
How to get tested for COVID-19
You can be tested for COVID-19 at most general practices, an after hours urgent care facility or a community-based assessment centre (CBAC).
You can attend a community-based assessment centre if your medical practice does not provide testing or if you are not registered with a medical practice team. You do not need an appointment to attend a community based assessment centre.
Tip: You can also use the NZ COVID Tracer app to find your nearest testing centre. Open the Dashboard and tap the ‘Learn more’ tile. Then tap the ‘Find a testing location’ link to bring up Healthpoint’s list of testing centres.
Testing is free, unless you require a test for travel overseas. You must contact a medical practice if you need a COVID-19 test to travel overseas.
Stay informed from reliable sources about COVID-19
- Visit your local DHB website for important hospital and health hub information, such as visitor restrictions, parking and shuttle services.
- Visit your local council website for information on their essential services (such as rubbish and recycling collection or public transport) and also upcoming rates payments.
Local public health response to novel coronavirus COVID-19
Community and Public Health stood up their Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in just two hours in late January 2020 in response to COVID-19 with staff ceasing ‘business as usual’ work. Every effort, hour and individual has been focused on the response since then, and will likely be the last organisation to wind down. Our staff have been involved in the local COVID-19 response in many ‘behind the scenes’ ways across Canterbury, South Canterbury, West Coast and the Chatham Islands.
Influenza: Don’t get it, don’t give it
Influenza is caused by different strains of influenza viruses. Around one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza or ‘flu’ each year. Influenza can be anywhere, and is highly contagious.
Immunisation is the best protection against influenza. Your flu symptoms are less likely to be severe even if you still catch influenza after immunisation.
Get immunised to stop the spread of influenza around your community. You could still be infected with flu even if you don’t feel sick, and pass it on to others. Reduce the spread of flu if you are sick by:
- staying away from others including crowded places or events;
- regular washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds and drying them for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser; and
- covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing – into a tissue, clothing or the inside of your elbow. Remember to put tissues in a lined bin.
Having an influenza immunisation every year can keep older people healthy and active for longer. Older people and those with certain medical conditions are also more likely to be affected by the flu. This is because influenza can make an existing medical condition worse (including asthma and diabetes), or increase the risk of complications such as pneumonia or heart failure.
Having the influenza immunisation during pregnancy helps protect the mother and her baby against influenza.
Stay at home from work, school or preschool if you have the flu so that you don’t spread it to others. Even a mild case of influenza can disrupt your everyday activities with family, friends, community and work.
Influenza is more than just a ‘bad cold’ – it is a serious illness that can put anyone in hospital or even kill them, including young and healthy people. Symptoms may vary with age, immune status and health of the individual and include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, cough, fatigue and generally feeling miserable. The fever and body aches can last for up to 5 days, and the cough and fatigue may last for two or more weeks.
Influenza vaccination is FREE for those who need it most
Getting immunised each year as early as possible before winter hits gives the best protection. This protection can last until next year.
You need to get the flu vaccine each year as protection from the previous vaccination lessens over time, and the flu strains in the vaccine usually change each year. Over a million New Zealanders get the annual immunisation against influenza.
The influenza vaccine is safe, effective and cannot give you “the flu”. The inﬂuenza vaccination will not protect you against COVID-19 and does not increase the risk of being infected with COVID-19 or any other respiratory virus.
A gap of two weeks is generally recommended between receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine.
Contact your general practice or local pharmacy to organise getting the FREE seasonal influenza vaccine now if you aged 65 years or over.
A FREE flu vaccine is now available to anyone in the following eligible groups:
- Pregnant women – at any stage or trimester in the pregnancy.
- Children aged 4 years and under who have been hospitalised for asthma or other breathing problems or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
- People under 65 years with medical conditions such as asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, most heart or lung conditions and cancers.
Common responses to the influenza vaccine may last a day or so and include:
- Pain, redness or swelling at the site of the injection;
- Muscle ache;
- Fatigue; and
- Fever, irritability and loss of appetite in children.
Know the signs of stroke: Think FAST
Around 24 New Zealanders have a stroke each day – about six of those are aged under 65.
A stroke will strike suddenly. Damage will move through the brain fast. But you can help if you know the signs to look for, and think and act fast.
- FACE – Is their face drooping on one side? Can they smile?
- ARM – Is one arm weak? Can they raise both arms?
- SPEECH – Is their speech jumbled or slurred? Can they speak at all?
- TAKE ACTION – Time is critical. Call 111 immediately.
A stroke is always a medical emergency so you should call 111 immediately – rather than your doctor, family and friends, or waiting for it to pass.
The FAST campaign is a joint initiative between the Stroke Foundation, Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency.