Hawke's Bay health officials are urging people to get a flu jab this winter as they work to avoid a repeat of last year's swine flu season that killed one Bay man and emptied classrooms around the region.
The Pandemic H1N1 Influenza 09, more commonly known as swine flu, was the dominant flu strain last year.
In August, 22-year-old Junior Afani Togia, who had an underlying health condition and the H1N1 virus, died at Hawke's Bay Hospital.
Mr Togia was the Bay's only swine flu fatality last year, from the nationwide death toll of 16 laboratory-confirmed cases.
Last year, schools across the region urged parents to keep sick children home to prevent spreading the virus.
At the peak of the 2010 flu season Twyford School's school roll of 170 dropped to about 120, while Clive School reported whole classes away as the school roll declined by about 30 per cent through sickness.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board physician Andrew Burns said it was still too early to determine the affect H1N1 virus would have on the community this year, although the latest national influenza statistics showed the region was off to a good start.
This week local schools reported absences were not out of the ordinary, suggesting the winter flu season was yet to kick in.
Dr Burns said swine flu was not expected to reach the same level of the last two years as many people had received the vaccine.
HBDHB staff had already held clinics at workplaces offering the influenza vaccination this year, which protected against three strains of flu including H1N1.
The latest update on the national influenza surveillance system for the week ending June 5 reported Hawke's Bay was well below the national weekly average, with less than 10 consultations of influenza-like illnesses per 100,000. Northland, Waitemata and Capital and Coast DHBs had the highest rates of 109, 67 and 64 respectively.
People were advised to get the jab as soon as possible as it could take up to two weeks to start providing protection.
It was particularly important for pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and over-65s, as they were more likely to develop complications.
The vaccine was free until July 31 for those aged over 65, pregnant women, people who were significantly overweight or had diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, and children aged between 6 months and 5 years.
Others could receive the vaccine through their GP or practice nurse for a cost.