The Courier-Mail

BRIS­BANE FLU FI­ASCO

Worst out­break in years catches out author­i­ties Vac­cine of­fers no pro­tec­tion from ill­ness Two hos­pi­tals de­clare pa­tient emer­gen­cies

- ROSE BREN­NAN Health · Infectious Diseases · Influenza · Health Conditions · World Health Organization

QUEENS­LAND is ground zero of the na­tion’s worst flu out­break in many years, with thou­sands of peo­ple struck down by a strain that was not in­cluded in the stan­dard vac­cine.

Health author­i­ties last night ad­mit­ted the sud­den re-emer­gence over the past few weeks of the world-renowned “Bris­bane” strain of in­fluenza B had taken them by sur­prise. This year’s stan­dard three-strain vac­cine does not pro­tect against it.

Author­i­ties now ex­pect more Queens­lan­ders to be in­fected than even the hor­ror 2009 swine flu year.

There have al­ready been 50 per cent more cases than last year – and a 10-fold in­crease in those with in­fluenza B.

Two of Bris­bane’s big­gest hos­pi­tals de­clared a Code Yel­low “in­ter­nal emer­gency” last week be­cause of the num­ber of flu cases.

Con­tribut­ing to the out­break is the fact that the “Bris­bane” flu strain – that mu­tated here in the win­ter of 2008 – strikes chil­dren and teenagers hard­est.

Two-thirds of those peo­ple hos­pi­talised have had the Bris­bane strain.

Pro­fes­sor Paul van Buyn­der, the di­rec­tor of the In­fluenza Spe­cial­ist Group, said it was the worst epi­demic he had seen. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion did warn last Septem­ber that the Bris­bane strain could make a reap­pear­ance. But it came too late, with the or­ders for the stan­dard three-strain vac­cine al­ready placed. RE­PORT P2

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