Year 7 and 10 Gympie region students will be offered free vaccinations this year.
Year 7 and 10 Gympie region students will be offered free vaccinations this year. Greg Miller

Young children urged to get flu jab as numbers soar

TWO people in the Wide Bay have lost their lives from the flu this year, but the virus could have contributed to more deaths.

And this year's record flu numbers show no sign of slowing down, with around 250 laboratory-confirmed cases in just the last two weeks in Wide Bay.

Entire families are being struck down with flu-like symptoms and parents are being urged to vaccinate young children, House Call Doctor said on Friday.

The organisation said almost half of all calls to the after-hours house call doctor service in the past few days had been related to children with flu-like symptoms.

Doctors in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay said they had seen nearly 60 children and in at least 10 of those cases the entire family was sick.

The comments came as Queensland Health's Medical Director of the Immunisation Program, Dr Jonathan Malo said children under five had a much higher risk of complications from the flu and contribute to the spread of flu in the community.

Across the state this year there's been 2,203 lab-confirmed flu notifications for children younger than five years, including 169 admissions to public hospitals with ten in ICU.

"We know this age group is particularly susceptible to potentially fatal complications from flu, such as sepsis and pneumonia, because their immune system is still developing, and they may lack previous exposure to flu," Dr Malo said.

"The flu vaccine is free for children aged six months to less than five years and I urge parents, if they haven't done so already, to book their children in for a flu vaccine."

Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Margaret Young said according to Australian Immunisation Register, in 2018 the uptake of influenza vaccine in children aged six months up to their fifth birthday in Queensland was 24.8 per cent.

"The highest rates of hospital admissions due to influenza are in children aged less than two years," Dr Young said.

"While deaths associated with influenza are most common in older adults, each year in Australia, a small number of deaths occur in young children, including in otherwise healthy children."

Dr Young was unable to confirm the age of those who has died from influenza in the Wide Bay this year but did confirm the Department was reporting two deaths.

"We are unable to comment on these numbers, and note that it is very likely that influenza has contributed to other deaths, particularly in people with existing chronic conditions," she said.



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