If you’ve had this season’s hideous flu, you’re not alone. And you can probably thank your kids.
In fact, 70,000 cases of flu have been already been reported across Australia this winter, with more than 30,000 of those in a single month. Queensland and New South Wales are the worst hit states.
Health authorities are now tipping 2017 to be the year of ‘Australia’s worst ever flu epidemic’. And they are urging children and pregnant women to get vaccinated right away to stop the spread.
Professor Paul Van Buynder, Chairman of the Immunisation Coalition, even says unvaccinated kids are to blame for the outbreak.
Children spreading flu germs
“These are the super-spreaders in the schools, to their grandparents and to others … and they’re keeping the flu spreading within the community itself,” Prof Van Buynder tells News Corp.
“These children clearly not just spread the virus within the community but they do suffer significant consequences themselves particularly under the age of five.”
He’s calling for the inclusion of annual flu vaccinations to the National Immunisation Register – and for parents to step up until the government steps in.
“Parents believe that (the flu vaccination) is not important because it’s not funded (or on the Immunisation Register), but this is very important and it should be funded.,” he says.
Not ‘just a cold’
Australia’s previous influenza record came in 2015 when more than 100,000 people tested positive for the flu. Now, 2017 is expected to exceed this number, with 4,000 falling ill with the flu in a single week in Queensland.
“I’m confident that this is not just the biggest recorded year in our data but it’s also the largest flu outbreak that we’ve seen for quite some time,” Prof Van Buynder says.
Back in 2007, several children in Perth died after contracting the flu, prompting urgent health warnings. This year, three elderly nursing home residents in Melbourne have already died from flu-related complications.
Too few kids and pregnant women vaccinated against flu
Prof Van Buynder says less than 10 per cent of Australian children are vaccinated against flu, leaving nine out of 10 children vulnerable to a very serious illness.
And he tells The Huffington Post that vaccination rates are also dismal among pregnant women, with only half receiving a flu jab so far this year.
“That is very disappointing, because we do know that if (pregnant women) do get influenza they suffer more serious disease,” Prof Van Buynder says.
“They are likely to have small babies or lose their babies and without a vaccine they’re not protecting their own children after birth in those first six months.”
The facts on influenza
The flu is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications, including pneumonia. The flu spreads via contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes. It contributes to up to 3,000 deaths in Australia each year.
- Influenza is a viral disease that causes widespread illness every year.
- Immunising people who are at risk of complications from the flu is the most important way to reduce the number of flu infections and deaths.
- Influenza immunisation is recommended for people in known high-risk groups, including pregnant women, children aged under five and the elderly.
- People who work or live with people who are at risk of serious complications should also be immunised to avoid spreading the flu.
- The vaccine can’t give you a dose of flu because it does not contain any live virus.
How to prevent the spread of influenza
The best time to be vaccinated is early autumn before the flu season begins. But experts say it’s not too late to see the doctor for a flu jab.
Other ways to help prevent flu include:
- keeping surfaces clean
- washing your hands regularly
- avoiding sharing cups and cutlery
- covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
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