Child dies after contracting the flu, another 18 hospitalised at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead

KeepHealthCare.ORG – Child dies after contracting the flu, another 18 hospitalised at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead

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A child has died and another 18 have been admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead for the flu.

It is the first death this year from influenza A, an acute respiratory illness caused by a virus.

The child was under the age of five and was unvaccinated. Health authorities are respecting the family’s privacy and will not be releasing any further details surrounding the death.

Remaining hospitalisations at the western Sydney hospital ranged in age from one month to seven-year-old.

The devastating news has NSW Health again urging parents to vaccinate their children.

Chief health officer Kerry Chant said 15 of the children were eligible for the free flu vaccine, which is given in two doses for first-time flu vaccinations.

“We know that 15 of the children were eligible for the free flu vaccine but only two of them had been fully vaccinated against flu,” Dr Chant said.

media_cameraThe influenza virus close up.media_cameraNSW Health chief health officer Kerry Chant.

Almost all of the 256 confirmed flu cases last week, contracted influenza A, which caused the 2009 pandemic where more than 650 people died from complications associated with the flu.

And, 74 of those 256 cases were from the Western Sydney Local Health District, the highest across the entire state by 36.

After last year’s 103,000 reported influenza cases, the virus hit its peak in August with 48,600 reported illnesses across all strains.

Confirmed cases are people that present at medical centres or hospitals, and represent only a portion of illness in the community. Experts believe the flu season has started later than usual this year.

The State Government this year kicked off its free flu jab for under-fives and has been pushing it with a statewide campaign since January to avoid the high numbers this year.

It’s worked with only 5052 reported cases statewide this year to date.

The government is spending $22.75 million on programs to assist with flue prevention this season including $3.5 million for free flu shots for children up to five years and a $1.75 million prevention campaign.

There are three types of influenza virus — A, B and C — A is more serious than the others and is the only type known to cause widespread outbreaks.

media_cameraThe Children’s Hospital Westmead.media_cameraNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing back in January they’d be offering free flu jabs for children up to the age of five. Picture: Glen Campbell

The virus is always changing with a new strain coming out each winter. People that contract influenza usually get better within a week by resting, taking mild pain killers, drinking plenty of fluid, eating light foods, but in some cases, the flu can be severe and lead to serious complications like pneumonia.

Those more susceptible include young children, the elderly, pregnant women, indigenous people and those with chronic health problems.

Dr Chant said the death was a timely reminder to parents who have not yet vaccinated their children.

“Influenza can be life-threatening and it’s not too late to vaccinate,” she said.

“Flu case numbers across the state are starting to rise and influenza A, which mostly strikes children and young adults, is the key strain circulating in the community.”

Dr Chant said there were plenty of supplies for under-fives to be vaccinate

“Just call ahead to your GP to check they have it in stock or give them time to order more vaccines,” she said.

The flu vaccine is also free for those who are pregnant, aboriginal, aged 65 years or more, or have medical conditions such as severe asthma, diabetes and heart problems.

“Vaccination is the best protection against flu but you can also help prevent it spreading by coughing and sneezing into your elbow, cleaning your hands regularly and staying home when sick.”


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