Michael Baker hopeful fewer Kiwis will catch the flu this winter

Source: 1News

A top epidemiologist is hopeful hygiene measures adopted by New Zealanders to combat the spread of Covid-19 will see fewer people getting the flu this winter.

Winter illness.

After two and a half years of the Covid-19 pandemic, people are more conscious about staying home and wearing a mask when they are sick.

Professor Michael Baker told Breakfast this could see a reduction in flu cases and flu hospitalisations in New Zealand this year.

"The flu is not particularly infectious, far less infectious than Covid-19 so it is possible with these new measures may dampen down that terrible damage that flu does every year," the University of Otago epidemiologist said.

Baker says even with Covid fatigue kicking in, people are remaining vigilant about winter respiratory illnesses.

READ MORE: Health system hit hard by winter illness, Covid numbers persist

"I would hopefully, optimistically, see a future where we have much less flu every year and I think we will all be a lot better off."

Baker emphasised the Covid-19 vaccine will not provide any protection against other viruses like the flu.

"The beauty of vaccines is that they're very targeted, they hone in on giving you an immune response to a particular virus."

READ MORE: How to prepare your whānau as winter illness looms

"They're telling your immune system what that particular microbe looks like but it doesn't help you very much with other microbes."

He says this is why masks are so effective, because they provide something similar to "a universal vaccine."

"Because they [masks] protect you from all Covid-19 sub-variants from flu, RSV and all those winter respiratory pathogens that can get us," Baker said.