A child has died and 18 others have been hospitalised with the flu in New South Wales over the past few months, prompting an urgent warning from health authorities.
The children were admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney between April 3 and July 8 this year.
Authorities said 15 of them were eligible for a free flu jab but only two had been fully vaccinated.
The child who died was under the age of five and was not vaccinated against the flu.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said the most predominant strain currently circulating was H1N1, which was associated with the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
“Influenza can have a spectrum but it is actually a significant disease causing hospitalisation and in tragic circumstances, also death,” she said.
“We know that it particularly impacts on young children and pregnant women.”
NSW Health statistics showed there had been 256 confirmed flu cases for the week ending July 8, compared to 6,449 in the same period last year.
Dr Chant said that indicated a late start to this year’s flu season, although doctors expected cases to increase significantly over the next two weeks.
“Once that happens we do see a rapid increase in flu activity in the community, so this is a reminder [to] get yourself off to the GP to get vaccinated.
Dr Chant said it took two weeks for the vaccine to work and that children getting it for the first time needed two doses, four weeks apart.
She reminded people to ring ahead to their GP to check they had stock in the fridge.
“GPs can re-order and there’s prompt re-supply,” she said.
Two children under the age of five died from influenza in NSW during the 2017 flu season.
The NSW Government offers free flu shots to all children aged between six months and five years old.