A DEADLY flu epidemic is sweeping the country with six people -
including five children - killed by a mutant strain of the already deadly
influenza A virus.
While it was first feared young children were the most
susceptible to the virulent strain, father-of-three Glen Kindness became the
first adult to fall victim to the flu.
Doctors across the state are reporting
patients presenting with "moderately severe" cases of the flu.
The number of
people falling ill with the flu in NSW has almost doubled over the past year,
with six out of every 1000 presenting at emergency departments with symptoms
including fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain and sore throats.
NSW deaths have been reported, the state's hospitals are on high alert as
worried parents swamp emergency departments.
A Sydney Children's Hospital
spokeswoman said their emergency department had seen a 69 per cent rise in
respiratory conditions since last year and a 218 per cent increase in viral
Influenza A is the more deadly strain of the flu virus - mainly
affecting the throat and the lungs - but it can also cause heart
This year the strain has mutated into a tougher form that is harder
for people to resist - particularly the very young and the very old.
to do with the general population's immunity to a particular strain - it mutates
a little bit every year to evade the general population's immune system," NSW
Health's director of communicable disease Dr Jeremy McAnulty told The Daily
Experts say children under five are the most- susceptible to the
virus because their immunity has not built up.
Despite the deaths of five
children across three states over the past month, doctors last night said deaths
from the flu were rare.
"While they (flu-related deaths) do occur and they
are frightening, they are a rare event. Parents need to be alert but not
alarmed," Professor Leon Piterman from Monash University said.
said parents should be vigilant and alert to any changes in their child's
He said worried parents should take their children to their local
GP first, but if it is an emergency then they should go straight to their local
Health authorities are cautioning parents not to panic, with early
figures suggesting the flu spike is subsiding.
Mr Kindness, a former soldier,
last Tuesday became the first adult to die of influenza A.
who served two tours in East Timor, died just three hours after being rushed to
Blackwater Hospital in Queensland suffering flu-like symptoms.
widow Kathleen last night said she was shocked at the suddenness of her
The Australian reports the following:
AUSTRALIA is facing its worst influenza season in years, as specialists warn that even young, fit adults could be affected.
This year, 3084 cases of influenza have been reported to health authorities -- compared with 1213 cases for the entire 2006. Queensland has been hardest hit, with 1414 cases this year, compared with 518 in NSW, 498 in Western Australia and 220 in Victoria.