Doctors throughout North Otago and South Canterbury are urging people to get their flu vaccinations.
Dr Jon Scott, of Central Medical in Oamaru, said people needed to be immunised before the flu season started to prevent themselves getting infected.
There was a misconception about the difference between a common cold and the influenza virus, he said.
“People see it as a simple virus, but influenza is something else.”
Although the viruses produced similar symptoms, influenza could have more devastating effects.
There were four seasonal influenza viruses circulating globally: influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2), influenza B Yamagata lineage and influenza B Victoria lineage.
The A (H3N2) strain had been included in New Zealand’s vaccination this year at the recommendation of the World Health Organisation, due to its association with an increase in hospital admissions and deaths.
Dr Scott was concerned the anti-vaccination movement was putting people off the flu jab.
“Unfortunately, you have a fairly [large] anti-immunisation group who have no understanding of the science behind it.
“They just see doctors and drug companies pushing it in order to make money.”
It was important vulnerable groups such as children were immunised because they were more susceptible to the virus.
Dr Scott’s advice for people over the winter was to stay warm, avoid smoking and keep active.
Dr Sarah Creegan, of the Waimate Medical Centre, also said flu vaccinations were important.
“We chase our patients to have an influenza vaccine because we know it’s such a nasty illness.”
The Waimate Medical Centre vaccinated 700 to 800 people each year, Dr Creegan said.
The Waimate clinic was an influenza surveillance centre, which closely monitored the virus.
So far Dr Creegan had seen at least one case in Waimate.