A Rotorua woman lost 2.5kg in seven days while battling a nasty flu infection that left her coughing up “cups of thick, green slime” for weeks.
She decided not to get the flu vaccine this
year and says it is a decision she “absolutely regrets” and is urging others to get the jab.
Her plea comes as hospitals, GPs and pharmacies throughout the Bay of Plenty say a growing number of patients are turning up with influenza, Covid-19, and other winter viruses.
The woman, who asked not to be named because of her work, has spent the past six weeks off work after waking up with a “very sore throat” and cough in mid-May.
She told the Rotorua Daily Post her illness got progressively worse and turned into a nasty chest infection.
“I was coughing so much my ribs hurt and my back ached and struggled to take a breath. I literally couldn’t even get out of bed for a week, apart from going to the toilet.
“My throat was so swollen, it felt like something was stuck in it. I could barely breathe at times and struggled to talk to people.
“It was so scary, after my viral infection worsened I coughed up cups of thick, green slime for two weeks. And within a week I had lost 2.5kg.”
She was fully immunised against Covid-19 and all her test results for the virus came back negative.
“Unfortunately, for some reason, I chose not to get my usual flu shots the last two years, a decision I absolutely regret,” she said.
“I’ve had Covid before and this viral infection was far worse. It’s affected every part of my life. Even my mental health suffered after weeks of isolation. And it’s also been financially devastating.
“I’ve told all my friends, ‘Please get your bloody flu shots’. I can’t urge people enough to get their flu shots and Covid vaccinations, otherwise, they may regret it.”
The woman said her symptoms also included a “very high” temperature, a “really bad” headache, and loss of appetite.
Despite several rounds of antibiotics and steroids, it was “borderline” three times whether she went to the hospital emergency department, but decided she couldn’t risk the chance of picking up another virus.
According to the Ministry of Health website, 49,908 people in the Bay of Plenty had received the flu vaccine ahead of 17,017 in the Lakes district.
Otūmoetai Doctors business manager Gareth Hudson said its flu vaccination programme had been reviewed to add more booking times for patients to attend their infectious illness clinics.
An extra GP and a nurse prescriber were also helping to reduce workload pressures.
Getting a “routine” appointment would take longer because the practice was prioritising infectious illness patients, he said.
Rebecca Greaves, of St John’s Photo Pharmacy, in Tauranga, said the usual onslaught of patients coming with flu and other respiratory illnesses started early this year.
The pharmacist said the business had been hit “quite hard” with increased demand for its services, and even some of her colleagues had been laid low with flu or Covid in recent weeks, affecting its ability to manage the growing workload.
In a written statement, Rotorua Area Primary Health Services (RAPHS) chief executive Kirsten Stone said it has been a “very busy” time for general practices,
Stone said RAPHS practices were “working very hard” to support access to services, with a significant rise in the number of nurse consults being provided.
“That puts extra pressure on already-stretched services,” she said
“Flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the flu, and for people over 65 years old or those with underlying medical conditions, it is usually free.”
A Te Whatu Ora Bay of Plenty spokesman said its EDs in Tauranga and Whakatāne had seen an increase in children and older adults showing up with respiratory illnesses due to influenza, RSV, Covid and other winter viruses.
“This is projected to continue right through the winter months, which will impact on wait times in emergency departments and planned care service delivery.”
The spokesman said it was vital that people kept updated with their flu jabs, Covid vaccinations, and immunisations to “protect themselves and others”.
Sandra Conchie is a senior journalist at the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post who has been a journalist for 24 years. She mainly covers police, court and other justice stories, as well as general news. She has been a Canon Media Awards regional/community reporter of the year.