Eight cases of influenza had been seen at Tauranga Hospital since Saturday. Photo/File

A Tauranga Hospital ward currently closed to new patients after eight people were diagnosed with influenza is expected to reopen tomorrow.

The hospital’s Ward 2A – Kaupapa Ward – has been closed to new admissions as a precautionary measure following eight cases of influenza being confirmed in the ward since Saturday.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board infectious diseases specialist Dr Diane Hanfelt-Goade said today that one more patient had been swabbed as a potential influenza case but the results of that testing had come back negative.

“It is anticipated that Ward 2A will be reopened to new patient admissions tomorrow but a final decision on that will be taken later today.”

Hanfelt-Goade said yesterday that patients were being treated and recovering and no further cases had been discovered since Tuesday night.

“The hospital’s other usual infection control measures have [been] put in place for incidents of this type,” she said.

Visitors, especially those who had not been immunised, were advised to avoid the ward.

“Anyone who has flu-like symptoms [sore throat, fever or chills] should not go to work or school, or visit patients in hospital, due to the risk of infecting others.”

Hanfelt-Goade said the health board’s advice to the public was to be vigilant about hand hygiene, including regular hand washing with soap and water or alcohol gel.

“These cases have been the result of that, someone bringing the flu into hospital.”

General practice services manager at Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation Phil Back said he had not received any feedback from local GPs that there had been anything out of the ordinary in the past few months and everything was “business as usual”.

Back said anyone who was feeling unwell should continue to consult their doctors. “Contact your GP 24/7.”

Meanwhile, Dr John Gemming, from 5th Avenue Family Practice, said he had seen “far more” cases of chest infections in the past three months.

Gemming said he was aware that one of the strains of influenza was not covered by the immunisation which could be why the practice had been seeing more cases.

He said this winter had been “much more difficult” for patients as he was seeing people falling ill repeatedly for up to three weeks.

Hanfelt-Goade said today that the results of which influenza strains were present in the Tauranga Hospital patients would not be available for several days.

“The influenza vaccine is formulated on the basis of which strains are thought most likely to be present during the southern hemisphere (New Zealand) flu season,” she said.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board reiterated that unwell people should not visit others in hospital.

FACT BOX

Influenza – or the flu – is a virus that spreads quickly from person to person.

Symptoms include fever, chills, aches, runny nose, a cough and stomach upset.

Immunisation is the best defence against the flu, the Ministry of Health website says.

Eligibility criteria for free seasonal influenza vaccination for 2017 (from influenza.or.nz)

1. Pregnant women (any trimester)
2. Anyone under 65 years with a listed medical condition on the website
3. Anyone aged 65 years or over
4. From May 1, 2017, all children and young people aged from 6 months to under 18 years who are living within the following earthquake impacted areas will be eligible to receive funded influenza immunisation:
– Seddon/Ward and rural Eastern Marlborough (Nelson Marlborough DHB)
– Kaikoura and Hurunui (Canterbury DHB)

Source: Bay of Plenty Times

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