Hawke's Bay District Health Board is asking parents not to send their children to daycare if they have a young baby at home as the number of respiratory syncytial virus cases in the region soars.
As of Friday afternoon, Hawke's Bay Hospital had 24 children in hospital with proven or suspected RSV, medical director of whānau and communities at HBDHB Dr Phil Moore said.
Four of the cases were in intensive care and receiving high levels of support including a nurse specifically assigned to their care.
One Hawke's Bay infant has been transferred to Starship for further specialist treatment.
"ED is busy, but parents and caregivers shouldn't hesitate to seek medical help urgently if they become concerned," Moore said.
"Wait times will vary depending on the seriousness however, even while waiting, nurses are actively assessing, giving oxygen, fluids and pain relief medications as they are needed."
For every baby or admitted child assessed, they are treating and sending home another three.
Moore said people should not send children to daycare, if at all possible, if they have a baby under six months at home, as babies are "very vulnerable" to RSV.
Hawke's Bay DHB also has a temporary no visitor policy in place with no visitors allowed in SCBU, birthing units and maternity wards and the children's ward with the exception of a parent/guardian to support the child.
The emergency department is limited to one support person per patient and ICU is limited to two visitors per patient, once a day only.
Moore said as RSV is highly contagious it is important to stay home and away from children and babies if sick, keep sick children away from childcare centres, use good hand hygiene, practice physical distancing, not share cutlery or glasses, and cough and sneeze into your elbow and discard tissues.
Toys which are shared among children should be washed in warm water and detergent at the end of the day, or if they are sneezed on or mouthed.
Tararua Health Group GP Jane Laver said the health centre is seeing an increase in babies presenting with symptoms such as wheezing.
She said there has been a huge spike but was unable to give actual numbers for the area.
Last year saw a drop off in respiratory viruses, but this year's numbers have been on the rise.
Laver, who is part-time at the clinic, said she personally had seen eight cases this week.
Staff had also been overwhelmed when four infants had been brought in after hours with respiratory symptoms.
However, they were better staffed now with more doctors.
Parents are being encouraged to ring first before bringing their children in.
Laver said Dannevirke residents were still "very good here" by wearing masks when they came in.
However, she was still seeing a number of vulnerable people with asthma.
MidCentral DHB officials said the increase in the number of babies and children being treated for respiratory illnesses, including the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) was "significant".
They were unable to provide data from the Tararua region.
A number of children were in high dependency care and the Child Assessment Unit had been repurposed with beds and cots to manage the additional demand.
Visitor numbers are being limited, with no more than two visitors per patient to Mid Central DHB facilities at any time.
Children under the age of 14 or anyone with a respiratory illness should avoid visiting the children's ward or children's outpatient clinic unless they have an appointment.