Queensland flu death toll rockets to 83

 

FLU-RELATED deaths in Queensland this year have jumped to at least 83 as the 2019 season continues its trajectory to be the worst on record.

More than 34,000 cases of flu have been diagnosed in the state in the past seven months - 4.7 times the five-year average at the same stage of the season.

The week ending last Sunday was the worst for influenza so far this year in Queensland with 3560 laboratory-confirmed cases recorded leading into the notorious Ekka flu period.

While about three-quarters of the state's confirmed flu-associated deaths in 2019 have been in people aged 70 and older, four of those who have died were under 50.

This year's Queensland flu death toll is already almost double the 43 recorded for the whole of 2018 but experts say the data is likely to be a gross under-reporting of the actual figures.

To be included in the death data, influenza must be recorded on a person's death certificate and the virus must have been confirmed in a laboratory.

More than 1800 people have been admitted to Queensland public hospitals as a result of the flu in 2019, including 172 who required intensive care.

That's about double the average year-to-date flu hospitalisation rate from 2014-18.

The locations of Queensland's 83 flu deaths in 2019.
The locations of Queensland's 83 flu deaths in 2019.


Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said that in the past fortnight, almost one in five people admitted to the state's hospitals with the flu were aged between 10 and 29.

He used the data to encourage teenagers to think about getting vaccinated, given the Palaszczuk Government's recent regulatory changes allowing teenagers aged 16 and older to get a flu shot at a pharmacy without parental consent.

"My message to teenagers is: I want you to make flu vaccination a priority just like learning to drive or preparing for exams," Mr Miles said. "Even if you're fit and healthy, flu does not discriminate and can have major health impacts on young people.

"It's a good reminder for those who are fit and healthy to still get vaccinated and give yourself the best chance to avoid the flu."

Despite it being late in the season, Dr Paul Van Buynder says its not too late to get the flu jab. Picture: Stewart Allen
Despite it being late in the season, Dr Paul Van Buynder says its not too late to get the flu jab. Picture: Stewart Allen

Griffith University immunisation expert Paul Van Buynder backed the minister's call, saying it was not too late for people to get a flu jab.

"We've still got lots of flu activity happening," Professor Van Buynder said. "We still want people to go out and get vaccinated if they haven't done it yet.

"The vaccination takes about ten days to work. But in ten days, we're still going to be seeing a lot of flu."

Queensland's worst flu season on record was in 2017, when 56,592 people tested positive.

Last year was a mild season, with 15,696 laboratory confirmed cases recorded.

TEEN'S TRIPLE WHAMMY SCARE

TEENAGER Brady Acutt has vowed to make sure he gets a yearly flu jab after ending up in an intensive care unit with a triple-whammy health scare - influenza A, bacterial pneumonia and salmonella poisoning.

The 16-year-old from Rockhampton, in central Queensland, is one of 172 people admitted to the state's public hospital ICUs with the flu so far this year after becoming "incredibly unwell" in late May.

"I'll definitely get vaccinated straight away in the future," the Year 11 Emmaus College student said.

"I won't risk it again. I was hooked up to all the machines and I just felt like the machines were the only things keeping me alive."

Brady Acutt in hospital.
Brady Acutt in hospital.

His mum Sonya Acutt said her son became so sick in the Rockhampton Hospital ICU, he asked questions such as: "How much sicker do I have to be before I'll die?"

"He definitely did get very frightened," Mrs Acutt said.

"It was intensely scary for a while there."

The 1.85m schoolboy normally weighs about 76kg but lost 6kg in about seven days during his illness.

He also missed about three weeks of school and is only just easing back into playing basketball again after experiencing debilitating post-viral fatigue.

"It takes a massive toll on your body," he said.

"I'd have big headaches and I wouldn't think straight. I couldn't keep my mind on the subject at hand."

Brady Acutt with mum Sonya in Rockhampton after the horrific ordeal.
Brady Acutt with mum Sonya in Rockhampton after the horrific ordeal.

Despite the daunting experience, Brady said he was thankful for the care he had received in ICU and it may have given him new ideas for what he wants to do once he leaves school.

"Just looking at their jobs and how they managed to take care of me, and save me, I think I could go into a role like that, where I take care of people."