Death toll in Australia’s flu epidemic nears 300

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A 13-year-old girl from Melbourne died from the flu late last week, as the death toll nears 300 in Australia. The Guardian reports that Crystal-lee Wightley had the flu for three days before she died at her family’s home. So far this year there have been 131,000 flu cases across Australia and 287 deaths nationally, according to the federal Health Department.

The report says on the other side of the country another family is mourning the loss of a toddler to the flu. Elijah David Huynh, two, from Karratha in Western Australia’s north, died at Perth Childrens Hospital.

Multiple nursing homes across New South Wales are also grappling with flu outbreaks, the report says. The NSW Health Department has urged family and friends of aged-care residents to get vaccinated against flu or delay visiting if unwell.

The NSW health director of communicable diseases, Vicky Sheppeard, said there had been 26 influenza outbreaks in state aged-care facilities last week. “The elderly are highly vulnerable to influenza and the flu jab is critical to reducing the risk of visitors catching the virus and bringing it into aged-care homes,” Sheppeard is quoted in the report as saying.

There have been 66 confirmed deaths of people aged over 60 years from the flu in NSW, including nine deaths last week. A nursing home near Wollongong was placed in lockdown following an outbreak which began on the June long weekend. An estimated 20 residents and 20 staff contracted flu symptoms and five residents received hospital treatment. Three died.

The South Australian government has launched a flu education campaign –the Flu Stops with You – in the wake of a horror season in that state. “The flu virus is spread by human contact and can live up to 48 hours on hard, smooth surfaces such as door handles, playground equipment and desktops,” the health minister, Stephen Wade, is quoted in the report as saying.

The Guardian report

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