Winter ills plaguing Tauranga could be a sign of worse things to come as influenza tightens its grip around New Zealand.
Bethlehem Pharmacy's Mark Arundel said it was only a matter of time before the city was hit hard by influenza.
"I think we are just about to experience quite a big upswing," Mr Arundel told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.
In the latest weekly report from the Ministry of Health, Waitemata District Health Board had the highest number of people seeing GPs for flu-like symptoms - 110.6 consultations for every 100,000 people. Auckland had the second highest rate - 81.8 per 100,000.
The national average weekly consultation rate is 19.6 per 100,000 and the Bay of Plenty district was recorded as having no activity, for now.
Mr Arundel said it was inevitable this would change as the flu spread from Auckland down to the Bay and "people still underestimated the flu".
Influenza was the world's number one killer followed by malaria, Mr Arundel said.
In Tauranga, vulnerable people such as the elderly were most at risk, particularly in August and September when many people let their guard down, he said.
Mr Arundel recommended people got vaccinated for the flu and to maintain regular hand washing and good health practices.
"Prevention is better than cure, that's probably that main message. Many people may choose not to vaccinate, which is their decision and then they wonder why they get sick."
Mr Arundel said it was a myth people became ill as a result of having a vaccination jab.
"Chances are they probably got sick from a person in the waiting room."
Tauranga City Council safety and wellbeing advisor Chris Woods said a total of 553 staff had taken 514 sick days during May and June this year.
The sick days were a 5.3 per cent increase on the 488 sick days taken in the same time period last year.
Mr Woods said the sick days did not necessarily reflect the impact of the flu, which had not been a big problem for staff so far.
"We are very pro-active. We say 'if you are ill, please don't bring your bug to work'," Mr Woods said.
Of council staff, 128 had taken flu vaccinations in March this year compared to 141 staff volunteering for the job in March last year.
Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said a lot of students in the past three to four weeks leading up to the school holiday had been off sick with the flu.
About 80 of the 240 staff at the school had taken up the offer of getting vaccinations this year, but despite this roughly half a dozen staff were off sick each day toward the end of last term, Mr Randell said.
"But we are certainly not as bad as last year. We struggled at times. There was 10 per cent of the school away some days," he said.
Reduce the risk of infection
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Wash hands with soap and water, and dry thoroughly
- If you are sick, stay away from work and school
- If you get sick and think it may be influenza, you should phone Healthline first on 0800 611 116, or your doctor. In an emergency phone 111.