Flu season driving culture of fear in parents

Stock image.
Stock image.

WA’s horror flu season is creating a culture of fear among parents.

The rising death toll from this year’s “killer” flu had caused a surge in the number of children presenting to Perth Children’s Hospital in the past month.

Figures from the Department of Health show over 4300 children were rushed to ED departments around Perth between June 23 and July 7, but only 447 were admitted.

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Parents should always take their child to the GP or the local hospital if you think they are particularly unwell.

Thornlie mum Candice Sullivan told Community News she rushed her middle child to Perth Children’s Hospital after he fell ill quite suddenly one evening.

“He had a high temperature, headache and was lethargic and pale so we immediately took him to hospital,’’ she said.

“Thankfully it turned out to be a minor virus, but my feeling is that I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Ms Sullivan said this was the first year she had vaccinated her children against the flu, and turns out she isn’t alone.

So far this year 43 per cent of children aged between 6 months and 5 years had received the influenza vaccination, compared to just 15.1 per cent of children last year.

The younger you are, the higher the risk of being hospitalised and affected by flu. Picture: File image

Bethany Hall of Willetton said she decided to vaccinate her two children after advice from her local GP.

“I never worried about it in previous years, but for some reason this flu season really shook me,’’ she said.

“I understand we need to stay informed, but this almost feels like scare tactics to be honest.”

Pediatrician and Infectious Diseases researcher Professor Peter Richmond from the Telethon Kids Institute acknowledged parents’ concerns and said the news headlines about the seemingly high number of life-threatening cases of flu this winter had been hard to miss.

“It’s impossible to hide from the germs and nasty bacteria that circulate throughout winter but the first and best line of defence is having the flu vaccine – not just to protect yourself but also those around you,” he said.

“The younger you are, the higher the risk of being hospitalised and affected by the devastating complications of flu, and this is because the first exposure to the virus is most likely to lead to infection, striking when the immune system is still developing strength.”

This year’s flu season has claimed 48 lives, 39 (81 per cent) of which were 65 years and over.

Professor Richmond said parents should always take their child to the GP or the local hospital to be checked out if you think they are particularly unwell.

“Especially if you notice they are having trouble breathing, have high fevers or look pale and lethargic with poor appetite,” he said.

Latest figures from the Department of Health, showed 17,640 West Australians had presented with the flu this year, compared to 1810 people at this same time last year.

However, a steady drop in the number of influenza cases and hospitalisations over the past two weeks show the flu season may have passed its peak.

Influenza symptoms

More severe than a common cold, typical symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • body aches
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting and diarrhea (mainly in kids)

 Flu complications

  • Croup
  • Bronchitis
  • Middle ear infections
  • Convulsions
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart failure

Prevention

  • Vaccination
  • Cover nose and mouth with tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Throw used tissues in the bin
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use antibacterial hand sanitisers
  • Avoid contact with people who have flu symptoms
  • Stay home from work or school until you are fully recovered

*Usually someone with influenza will recover naturally within two to seven days. You should consult a doctor if symptoms become severe or don’t clear up.

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