Hawke's Bay health officials are warning of a rise in influenza-like illness that's putting pressure on the hospital's Emergency Department, and also asking people to see their GPs or other care providers as the hospital was now at capacity.
Hawke's Bay DHB chief medical officer Dr John Gommans said ED had been overflowing in the past couple of days, when there had been a record breaking number of attendances.
"Usually we see 110 to 120 a day but we are now at more than 160 a day."
Although not all were attributable to the flu, there had been increased numbers of people coming in with symptoms including chest infections, coughs, breathlessness, fevers and sore throats, and a proportion of those were admitted to hospital, he said.
With the hospital at capacity he said surgeries were being reshuffled and, in some cases, a small number of minor elective surgeries had been postponed until further notice.
He advised people not to go to work or school if they came down with the virus, and to seek early advice from their doctor, pharmacist or Healthline, to relieve the pressure on ED.
"We're asking people to look after themselves.
"It's not too late to get a flu vaccination, not only if you are at risk but also if you are living with people who are at risk."
The spike in flu symptoms at this time of year was not unusual, but had decreased over the past two mild winters, with this week's influx a return to a more traditional pattern.
Dr Gommans also asked that people be tolerant with hospital staff who were doing their best to deal with the large numbers of patients, but also coping with reduced staff numbers.
"We have 3000 or so people employed here and like everyone else in the community there are staff with viruses or who are having to look after their children or family members.
"Even 10 to 20 extra people in ED can make a difference."
The spike in flu symptoms was also evident at general practices and health centres, in line with nationwide trends.
Hawke's Bay DHB medical officer of health Dr Rachel Eyre said the DHB's public health surveillance team had also detected an increase in school absenteeism and staff sickness, as was consistent with the start of the influenza season.
"Being immunised is your best possible defence against this virus so we would encourage people who have not yet been vaccinated to book an appointment with their doctor, nearest health centre or selected pharmacy."
The vaccine was free for those most at risk including adults and children with long-term health conditions, pregnant women and people aged 65 and over.
Influenza virus infected the nose, throat and lungs and was normally worse than a cold.
Symptoms could come on suddenly and included a fever and a cough with other possible symptoms such as chills, muscle aches, runny nose, cough and stomach upsets.
Older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions were at higher risk of developing serious complications from influenza, such as pneumonia.
Dr Eyre said the flu spread quickly from person to person through touch and through the air.
"It is important people seek medical advice early if they are concerned or in the high risk group."