Flu’s fatal grip strikes early

HEALTH authorities are pleading with NSW parents to vaccinate their young children against influenza after one child died and others were hospitalised with serious health complications.

Top concern for doctors is the dominant strain this year is influenza A N1H1, which fuel­led the horrific pandemic flu season in 2009 and hits young children and pregnant women the hardest. The warning comes despite the season's peak not expected to hit for ­another two months.

And the official start of flu season is likely to be declared in two weeks, exactly how long it takes for protection from vaccination to take effect.

 

Top concern for doctors is the dominant strain this year is influenza A N1H1.
Top concern for doctors is the dominant strain this year is influenza A N1H1.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said only 20 per cent of eligible children have had the free vaccine so far.

"People need to take opportunity now before the season starts," Dr Chant said.

This is the first year the shot is free for children aged six months to five years. They ­require two doses.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that nearly all of the 256 flu cases in NSW in the week to July 8 were influenza A H1N1 strain.

And from April 3 to July 8, 19 children aged from one month to seven years were admitted to the Children's Hospital at Westmead with­ ­influenza with 17 of the youngsters struck down by influenza A. One of the children was aged under five, not vaccinated and died.

Although 15 of the children were eligible only two had been fully vaccinated.

Flu activity has been most severe in Western Sydney which Dr Chant said was ­because of the large population of children.

Influenza can cause serious breathing issues in children as well as pneumonia and even encephalitis - inflammation of the brain.

Flu numbers are steadily increasing across NSW with the 256 cases in the most recent week of data a jump on the previous week's total of 178.



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