Middlemore hospital already seeing double the flu cases it did last year

This year's flu season has already turned deadly.

Two people have died, including a child, and experts are warning people to get their flu shots before winter hits.

We're only at the start of the flu season, but already two people have died at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital, an early reminder that the virus can kill.

"We've had two patients that have died, a 62 year-old and a 12-year-old, both had some underlying chronic illness and had the flu," said Middlemore Emergency Department Clinical Head Dr Vanessa Thornton.

Thornton says A and B strains are rife and it's looking to be a higher flu season.

"We're not at the peak so it's on the way up, but there's still more than there were at the same time last year."

While levels remain relatively low, the Emergency Department at Middlemore is already seeing double the number of cases, compared to the same time last year.

Australia is having a horror flu season with predictions it will claim 4,000 lives, and New Zealand could be in for a horror season, too.

The latest ESR figures show a significant increase in the past week with three outbreaks reported.

Ten to 20 percent of us could get it, and what might surprise you, it kills 400 people each year.

"Flu can kill any one of us, obviously it's way more likely to kill with somebody who's got some underlying severe medical conditions but it can kill anyone any time," said immunisation advisory centre director Dr Nikki Turner.

The best way to stop it spreading is to get the flu jab.

"At this stage it looks like the circulating strains are those that match the vaccine. The vaccine's not a magic bullet, it's not perfect, but it should reduce flu and particularly reduce the severity of the flu if you do catch it," said Turner.

1.2 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed so far and people are urged to get them sooner rather than later.



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