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