Flu-like illness consultations in the South have surged, the rate tripling within a week, the latest ESR flu report shows.
In the week to July 22, the South had about 180 presentations for flu-like illness per 100,000 people, about three times more than the previous week.
The national average was 108.5 presentations, compared with 102.8 the previous week.
However, the number of confirmed flu viruses in the South remained minuscule, whereas Canterbury DHB has had nearly 600 this year.
Mornington Health Centre nurse supervisor Liz Medlin said the flu season had finally started, "even later" than last year.
This week was even busier than last week, the period measured in the latest ESR report.
Patients had a sore throat, aches, headaches, and "feeling like they have been hit by a bus, really".
Most had not had a flu vaccine.
Ms Medlin had noticed an increase in patients asking for the flu jab since publicity about the prevalence of the H3N2 strain in Canterbury.
Health Minister Tony Ryall announced on Tuesday the free flu vaccine had been extended for eligible groups by a month to the end of August.