Media releases 2020

Jul
14

Lockdown shuts out infectious medical conditions

Tuesday, 14 July 2020 by James Norman

 

New Zealand appears to be enjoying unseasonably good health if traffic to one of the country’s most-used online health libraries is anything to go by.

The Southern Cross Medical Library has seen a 65 per cent drop in traffic to a dozen of its usually busy infectious diseases pages in the past three months, when compared with the same period last year.  

The decreases correspond with the period New Zealand was in lockdown and encouraged to follow social distancing and hygiene practices, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The traffic data strongly suggests those precautions have effectively stemmed the spread of many other infectious conditions. Computer stethoscope

The most dramatic change has been traffic to the Southern Cross flu page, which was down 87 per cent when comparing data from April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. Traffic to the other infectious disease pages was also substantially down, including tonsillitis (-37 per cent), strep throat (-59 per cent), gastroenteritis (-71 per cent) and glandular fever (-39 per cent).

With children not attending school or pre-school during lockdown, the occurrence of common childhood infections also appears to have plummeted when comparing the April-June periods in 2019 and 2020. That includes diseases like whooping cough (-74 per cent), croup (-78 per cent) and chickenpox (-62 per cent).  

Chief Medical Officer at Southern Cross Health Insurance, Dr Stephen Child said the data is likely to be a good indicator of the prevalence of infectious disease symptoms in the community.

“Traffic to our online medical library has often been a good gauge of what’s happening with New Zealanders’ health. Last year when the incidence of measles in New Zealand was spiking, we saw a significant increase in people searching for that medical condition online and visiting our website as a result.

“This year, we’re seeing the reverse with a sharp drop in visits to our online medical library pages that deal with a broad range of infectious diseases. That’s clearly linked to COVID-19 precautions that have apparently been very effective in curtailing the spread of many infectious diseases,” said Child.

In the April-June period in 2019, infectious conditions dominated the Southern Cross Medical Library’s top 10 busiest pages, receiving tens of thousands of visits.  

This year, infectious conditions have made way for non-infectious conditions like haemorrhoids, sciatica, bowel cancer and gallstones in the Southern Cross top 10.

The Southern Cross Medical Library has pages on a broad range of medical conditions and receives more than 3 million visits each year.

ENDS

The following table shows the percentage reduction in visits to Southern Cross Medical Library’s busiest infectious disease pages. 

These statistics represents visits from New Zealanders to the Southern Cross Medical Library. Visits from people in other countries has been removed from the data.

 Infectious Condition

Percentage traffic reduction

April-June 2019 vs April-June 2020

 Bronchitis - 33.7%
 Chickenpox - 61.7%
 Croup - 77.9%
 Flu - 86.9%
 Gastroenteritis - 70.9%
 Glandular fever  - 39.0%
 Hand foot and mouth  - 93.2%
 Measles - 84.9%
 Pneumonia - 57.3%
 Strep throat - 58.9%
 Tonsillitis - 37.1%
 Whooping cough - 73.7%
 Average - 64.6%