Whanganui's medical officer of health Dr Patrick O'Connor says there's a good chance 2020 will have a "relatively light" influenza season.

The latest flu vaccine statistics and the number of influenza cases admitted to Whanganui Hospital are providing hopeful signs with the winter peak in sight.

Between May to June 2019 there were 20 inpatient discharges at Whanganui Hospital for influenza and so far there have been no discharges this year, meaning no cases have been admitted to hospital.

For all respiratory discharges where people have been sent home after being hospitalised for a broad range of respiratory ailments, there were 82 discharges in May.

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This is a significant drop in numbers as May 2018 had 128 discharges and May 2019 had 150 discharges for respiratory ailments.

O'Connor said there are a number of reasons why Whanganui might expect to have fewer influenza cases than in previous years.

"There will be fewer cases introduced from overseas. If someone does develop influenza they will very likely isolate themselves, and if they do not do this then other people will very likely tell them to do so."

Whanganui's Medical Officer of Health Dr Patrick O'Connor believes we have become more aware of respiratory hygiene which will help with this year's influenza season. Photo / Bevan Conley
Whanganui's Medical Officer of Health Dr Patrick O'Connor believes we have become more aware of respiratory hygiene which will help with this year's influenza season. Photo / Bevan Conley

He said people have become far more aware of respiratory hygiene and, even though there is now less social distancing, they will be motivated to keep well away from anyone with respiratory symptoms.

And when it comes to the number of over 65-year-olds vaccinated against influenza, the region continues to top the charts.

The national average within that age group sits at 65 per cent, with Whanganui at 77 per cent.

The national average for Māori in the same age group is 56 per cent with Whanganui at 85 per cent.

Manaaki Te Whanau Outreach Team clinical lead Sue Hina said the Whanganui District Health Board usually tops the charts but this year they have had around an 8 per cent increase.

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She said providers had to be innovative this year in how they delivered the vaccine due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

This included home visits, drive-through clinics at general practices and community clinics.

"The collaboration of a number of general practices and other organisations contributed to their success. The success of the drive-through and car park clinics has encouraged general practices to look at this method next year."

And so far there is no problem with the supply of vaccine after a national shortage in 2019.

The peak of the influenza season is expected to hit around the end of July but O'Connor said this varies every year.

Hina encourages anyone who wishes to get the flu vaccine to make an appointment with their general practice.