Two people, one a child, have died in Auckland as a result of influenza about a month into the flu season.

And the deaths have prompted an immunisation expert to relay vital information about restricting the spread of the dangerous illness.

Counties Manukau Health confirmed to the Herald a 12-year-old and a 62-year-old had both died this season from influenza.

Immunisation Advisory Centre director Dr Nikki Turner said the important message is to stop the spread of flu across the community, not individually.


"There are some people of way higher risk, people with other medical conditions, very young children or the elderly," she said.

"Obviously, vaccination is one way [to stop the spread] and the second thing is when you're sick to stay away from people and stay away from babies.

"Hand washing and using those hand gels really work, people who are sick should not be coughing over others, we really need a bit more social distancing."

According to the Ministry of Health's Immunisation Handbook 2017, children shed more virus and remain infectious longer than adults.

An infected person is contagious from one to two days before symptoms start until about day five of the illness.

The illness characteristically begins with a fever, cough and rhinitis for children aged under 5 years, while adults start with a fever, headaches and a sore throat.

In 2017, the Herald reported influenza was killing about 500 New Zealanders each year following research from University of Otago scientists.

Meanwhile, Counties Manukau Health said it was not unusual for there to be influenza deaths at this time of year.


Vaccines are not 100 per cent effective against the flu, Turner said, they're about 50 per cent but if you've had one they're more effective against severe cases.

She said while it can be difficult to tell the difference from the flu and the cold, severe flu is really easy to pinpoint.

"With severe flu, you feel like you've been run over by a bus, you just ache all over, high-spiking fevers and you might have a bit of a cough," Turner said.

"Essentially, if you're feeling unwell, you've got aches and pains and high-spiking fevers then you could well have the flu."

She added to anyone who is unsure of their health condition or if they are worried they have influenza to visit their general practitioner.