WITH winter's chill now well and truly set in, the full effects of the flu season are setting in.
North Coast Public Health director Paul Corben said there had been a marked increase in presentations of flu cases to hospital emergency departments since the middle of June.
"We've seen an up-turn in people presenting with respiratory conditions over the past couple of weeks," Mr Corben said.
"There have been similar patterns elsewhere in the state. We've seen a steep climb two to three weeks earlier than average when compared to the previous five years."
Mr Corben said while North Coast Public Health had experienced an increased demand for laboratory testing, lab results were not a true indicator of the level of infection in the community.
He said a majority of people self-diagnosed without seeking medical advice and in many cases GPs provided a clinical assessment without further testing.
He said prevention was better than cure and it was not too late to get a flu vaccination.
"The flu vaccine is free for quite a wide range of people ... and people should talk to their GP to see if they are eligible," he said.
While most people recover within one to two weeks, Mr Corben said a number of people end up in intensive care and occasionally die.
"If you're not getting better, or you are concerned and short of breath, see a doctor," he said.