Wellington childcare centres are concerned they've only just received official information about the highly contagious winter virus RSV, when children have been off sick for weeks.
The recent respiratory syncytial virus outbreak has put dozens of children in hospital with many ending up in intensive care units or needing oxygen to help them breathe.
Today Wellington health authorities restricted hospital visits as the number of cases continue to climb.
There are 33 children of different ages in Wellington Regional Hospital with respiratory illnesses, and a further two in ICU, health authorities said.
Hutt Hospital also has 11 children in hospital with RSV or respiratory-type illnesses.
Te Kainganui Child care centre head teacher Heather McRobbie said they only received information about the outbreak from the DHB today.
While McRobbie couldn't be sure the virus had circulated at the centre, she said children have been off sick with respiratory illnesses.
"We're a roll of 24, but we had two to three weeks where we had about 9 to 10 children away everyday."
McRobbie said the centre learned about the outbreak via word of mouth.
"I found out from all the nurses we know. I found out about a head teacher at another centre who's by the hospital.
"She told me because all the nurses who were parents at her centre said the paediatric ward was full of babies."
McRobbie said she thought the outbreak had started around the time the alert level was changed in the Wellington region in response to two Australian tourists testing positive for Covid-19.
"Maybe they [the DHB] need to think about how they support centres and schools with how they manage Covid, versus some sort of plague," she said.
A teacher at another childcare centre, who asked not to be named, said they had also started to see respiratory illnesses a couple of weeks ago, before they were notified by health authorities.
"We have had kids that have had respiratory stuff and presumably this has been what it was," they said.
"Last week and the week before we had some really low days – more than usual."
They said there was one day when more than half of the children were absent due to illness.
"It's a bit of a worry, the severity of these illnesses, and obviously things are worse this winter than last winter."
A spokesperson from Capital and Coast District Health board (CCDHB) said Regional Public Health (RPH) have public nurses and promotion teams connected with schools and early childhood education (ECE) centres in Wellington.
They regularly provide guidance on "various health topics as they arise, which includes prevention of winter illnesses," they said.
"While RPH has not provided targeted advice to schools or ECE through a public health alert specifically about RSV, it continues to share information with schools and ECE as required."
A spokesperson from Regional Public Health said they were aware some ECE centres were concerned at the timing of communications, but they said this had been balanced by positive feedback.
"A core part of our team's work is to provide guidance and support on infection control in Early Learning Centres on an ongoing basis to keep centres healthy for tamariki, staff and whānau."
"This can be in the form of support with illness policy, cleaning protocols and ensuring that the learning environments are safe and hygienic."
Managing the RSV outbreak would be no different to managing other winter respiratory illnesses, they said, in which ECE centres were well practised.
"We view that our communications would provide reassurance to Early Learning Centres that their usual illness prevention practices are what is required to help control the spread of winter illness like RSV.
"These are practices that Early Learning Centres will already have in place and be working through."
In light of increased numbers of unwell children in hospital, Hutt Valley DHB and CCDHB chief medical officer John Tait said the two DHBs were restricting visitation rights.
"We ask people to not visit wards if they have had a fever, cough, sore throat, or runny nose in the past 24 hours and advise that children under 12 not visit a hospital unless there is a clear medical need."
To protect vulnerable patients, children aged under 12 would not be permitted to visit NICU, maternity and delivery wards, wards 1 and 2, 4 and 5 North, and the Acute Frailty Unit.
Children aged under 12 were also not permitted to visit the Kenepuru Maternity unit or Kāpiti Maternity.