Influenza cases in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes district are "extraordinary" - because there have been none confirmed.
Toi Te Ora Medical Officer of Health Phil Shoemack confirmed there had been no cases of influenza since March 2020 in both Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Board areas.
"That's not to say there haven't been a few cases as the swabbing test isn't always accurate and people aren't always swabbed for influenza.
"But what we know from watching around the world, and the World Health Organisation, is there has been a clear reduction of influenza around the globe."
Shoemack said border closures were the major reason behind the lack of influenza.
"There has also been a heightened level of attention to the health advice we put out every year, like good hand hygiene, because of the pandemic.
"But even then, we would have anticipated there to be more influenza in the community."
Bay of Plenty DHB infection prevention and control clinical nurse specialist Robyn Boyne agreed, saying travel restrictions and good health practices were resulting in the drop of influenza cases.
However, there has been a rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract and predominantly affects children.
"We saw no cases of seasonal respiratory virus RSV during last year's winter season either. However, we have just recently started to see cases of RSV appearing."
So far this year, 14 children and two adults have presented with RSV at Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospitals.
"By way of meaningful comparison, this time two years ago we had seen 26 children and 10 adults presenting with RSV."
Meanwhile, at the coalface, Tauranga Hospital co-ordinator Julie Williams said while the emergency department was busy, winter ills and chills were not a significant factor at this stage.
Dr Sue Huang, Institute of Environmental Science and Research virologist, described the lack of influenza in the community as an "extraordinary event".
Both Covid-19 and influenza were respiratory viruses and as a result of pandemic procedures last year, influenza was also eliminated, she said.
"And it continues. The interesting thing about flu is New Zealand is a temperate climate. When we enter into our summer and we actually don't have any flu within our community, the only way flu can come into our community is through overseas travellers."
Huang said there had been cases of influenza in managed isolation facilities but by the end of the 14-day period, people had recovered.
There were few cases of influenza in Australia too, Huang said, but it was likely RSV was spreading because of the transtasman bubble.
As of June 22, 44,285 flu vaccines had been given to the Bay of Plenty district population.
Huang said, despite the lack of influenza, having the vaccine was good for peace of mind.
"The situation is very dynamic and the risk is there. For vulnerable people, if they encounter flu it can cause serious implications so those people should be having it [the flu jab]. Why not take advantage of it?"
The Lakes District Health Board has immunised 14,213 people against influenza this year.
Lakes DHB lifestyle consultant Dr Hayden McRobbie said the latest influenza tracking report showed "flu-like symptoms" were slightly higher than this time last year, although still lower than 2019.
Rotorua Hospital head of emergency department Dr Suzanne Moran said she was already seeing seasonal illnesses such as coughs, colds and chest infections.
"We are starting to see a climb in patients presenting with coughs and colds as well as those with flu symptoms. In most cases, this can be managed at home with simple paracetamol, hydration and rest.
"Winter is always expected to be a busy time for ED as seasonal illness hits and it has an impact, especially on people with chronic illness like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
"We are starting to see a rise in attendances with these sort of cases."