A word from Dr Greg White, Cromwell Family Practice GP

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Covid not the only threat to health out there

Spoiler alert for the upcoming Shortland Street winter season.

Medical and no doubt sordid personal dramas are playing out on Castle St in real life, as I speak.

Including the one where someone flies into New Zealand carrying a highly contagious virus.

They infect socially mobile young people living and studying close together.

Next, a mass outbreak of fever, cough and general misery.

Hospitals and doctors are soon swamped with sick people and are overwhelmed for a time and more essential care is put on hold.

Most will survive, sadly some won’t and some will have terrible permanent complications.

The protagonists? Influenza A and RSV.

No, not Covid.

But you can add Omicron BA.4/5 verbatim.

But the story is still being written.

I was aware, more than most, of the startling elimination of flu in New Zealand for the past two winters.

Virtually no glue ear in kids, asthma, hospital admissions or pneumonia in patients.

My own asthmatic lungs thank the country for two years without a chest infection and antibiotics. Why did this happen?

Not importing it, social distancing in varying amounts plus masks. Simple NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions).

These viruses are droplet rather than aerosol spread, so are more sensitive to changes in our behaviours.

We have no RSV vaccine, limited flu vaccination and Omicron has mutated to dodge vaccines, so NPIs are our best bet to mitigate winter germs.

It’s just a cold, I hear many say about all three viruses.

Omicron and flu have as much resemblance to a cold as I have to an All Black.

Eighty words left, so here’s why Omicron simply isn’t:

  • Equal-most infective virus with measles.
  • Hangs in the air for hours.
  • Infects nearly all organs.
  • Mutates 500 times faster than flu.
  • Damages the brain, heart.
  • Suppresses the immune system using the same mechanism as HIV.
  • Long-term gut infection.
  • Causes hepatitis in children.
  • No herd or lasting immunity.
  • Causes blood clots.

OK, Dr Death, what should I do?

1) Get vaccinated. 2) wear an N95 mask. 3) Avoid unmitigated indoor events. 4) Ventilate and Hepa filter air. 5) Get tested and stay home if sick.

Easy. This is what living with Covid looks like.

Not lockdowns or traffic lights, but a few simple measures.

By working together, we can save health care for those who really need it.

Making public health decisions based solely on personal risk is like everyone making up their own road rules.