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Health ministry wary of influenza cases

Tuesday 5 April 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Health, National


Health ministry wary of influenza cases
(File photo) Nurse Parau Nio administers an injection. TE MARAE ORA/20051108

Health authorities are preparing for a likely spike in influenza cases not long after Covid-19 numbers peak.

Figures provided by Te Marae Ora (TMO) show the Cook Islands recorded over 270 cases of Covid-19 over the weekend, pushing the total number of cases to over 2526 since the pandemic began, with 777 of those cases still active.

Public health advisor Dr Douglas Lush said Rarotonga was likely hitting its peak numbers for Covid-19 over the next two weeks.

There had also been another couple of cases in Aitutaki over the weekend, bringing the total number of cases on the island to 14, with 12 of those recovered.

Lush said as the Covid-19 numbers began to peak, the influenza season could also make its way through the island.

“The notifications of the next few should provide an indication of whether daily case numbers are declining. It should be going down rather than going up by now.

“With borders closed, we’ve had two years without it,” Lush said.

“But with borders reopening to Australian visitors in particular, we can expect the return of the influenza season. TMO will be looking at providing vaccines as soon as available.”

Lush said TMO would be preparing for the coming influenza season by launching another vaccination programme.

“We know how important it is to look after our people,” he said.

Lush said it was yet to be decided as to how many influenza vaccines needed to be rolled out.

Lush said TMO had contingencies in the event hospitalisations due to Covid-19 needed to occur.

This included setting aside some hotel accommodation for moderate cases, and hospital beds for more severe cases.

“To date, there’s evidence of good protection from the vaccine, but it’s still up in the air as to whether we would get hospitalisations later on. We don’t know how many hospitalisations will occur.”

Lush said some of the more vulnerable in the community might have been protecting themselves by self-isolating and wearing masks.

He has previously estimated that about 7000 people in Rarotonga—nearly half the island’s population—would be infected with Covid-19 during the outbreak.

However, he said the current numbers suggest that a peak might already have been reached.

“There are probably a lot of cases of people who have had the infection but have not got tested for it, because they don’t think they are displaying symptoms. As a result, we can’t detect everyone who has been infected.”

Lush said Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) have been given to contacts of cases, so they can do the tests at home, and people now only needed to isolate for seven days.

If they have been tested negative after seven days, they won’t need to isolate again if further people in the household become cases.

“This approach takes advantage of the availability of RAT tests that can be performed home, and will allow more people to return to the workforce, rather than spending long periods in quarantine.”