Killer flu season claims ‘too many’ lives on Coast
THE Sunshine Coast has recorded the highest number of flu deaths outside the Brisbane metropolitan area as the late-winter flu wreaks havoc across the state.
More than 20 people have died on the Coast from flu-related complications this year, with even people who have had the flu vaccination complaining of illness.
Statewide, 191 people have been killed, with 80 per cent of deaths occurring in those aged in their 70s or older.
With three months of the year left, Queensland’s 2019 flu toll is already more than 300 per cent higher than the 43 deaths recorded for the whole of 2018.
Almost 65,000 cases of the flu have been diagnosed in Queensland this year, with 5210 on the Sunshine Coast.
Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association vice-president Wayne Herdy said the strain of influenza A that went around the region in July was not covered by this year’s vaccine.
“For some years, we’ve been predicting a higher flu season, and this year we got it,” Dr Herdy said. “The Sunshine Coast was hit particularly hard.”
Dr Herdy said patients from all age brackets had been diagnosed with the flu this season, with residents who had underlying health conditions impacted the worst.
“Anybody that has other medical conditions going on that make them more prone to getting a serious complication, these are the people who are more likely to die from it,” he said.
While a number of residents who had the flu vaccine this year reported a worse-than-usual season, Dr Herdy said the virus wasn’t caused by the vaccine itself.
“The people who had the flu vaccine didn’t have any more of (flu-related illness) … but they didn’t have any less of it either,” he said.
Dr Herdy said the late-winter flu that’s been hitting the region was a different strain of influenza B that wasn’t treatable with medication previously given to patients with influenza A.
“It doesn’t seem to be causing an illness that was as serious, but it’s still making people sick and rough,” he said. “This is a whole new epidemic of a totally different virus.”
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles has described this year’s flu season as “truly staggering”.
“Every death is one too many. These were Queenslanders with families and loved ones and prevention has to be a priority for all of us,” he said.
“I am begging people, please get yourselves and your families vaccinated every year. And if you’re sick, stay at home.”
Dr Herdy urged residents to stay vigilant with washing hands to prevent spreading the virus.