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

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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