It is not Bird-Flu as we know it.
Nor is it the “Normal Flu” as we know it.
A strange kind of Flu has been killing people (mostly children) in Australia.
Health authorities have confirmed that a five-year-old boy from Melbourne’s south-east had the flu when he died yesterday.
Ethan Ioannou, who was found by his mother yesterday morning in the family home in Berwick, had type A influenza, a spokesman for the Department of Human Services said this afternoon.
A four-year-old boy died in a Brisbane hospital of suspected influenza earlier this month.
Three children died last month in Western Australia after suffering secondary bacterial infections after contracting a common flu strain.
Experts are divided on the seriousness of the influenza outbreak which may have already claimed the life of a five-year-old Melbourne boy this week.
Virology professor Greg Tannock said a mutation in the virus was a possible cause of the increased reports of flu.
Flu ‘mutation’ possible
Mutations, which occur often, mean that people who had received flu shots were still vulnerable.
“Manufacturers are always behind the eight-ball, because it just changes. All vaccines are made on what was around the previous northern winter,” he said.
“If a sudden change occurs, all the previous immunity, that’s all the previous vaccines, are much less relevant.”
Major vaccine producer CSL conceded the flu vaccine is unable to protect people against new strains.
“We do tailor the vaccines very specifically to the strains in circulation at any one time but the flu vaccine is roughly 70 per cent effective because there’s always a chance that a strain can begin to be spread which is not included in the vaccine,” spokeswoman Rachel David said.
Ian Barr from the World Health Organisation said this year’s flu season was “much more intense season than” than in the past few years.
‘No sign of outbreak’
However, the state government’s Department of Human Services said its records showed no sign of an outbreak.
The strain causing concerns is likely to be H1, which has not been seen in large numbers for three years, Dr Barr said. The strain is combining with the more common H3 variety.
“It’s a little bit unusual to have two strains circulating so widely concurrently.”
DHS has described this winter’s flu as “normal seasonal activity”.
Spokesman Bram Alexander said the department had received 260 notifications of influenza, up from 245 at this time last year but down from 428 in 2005.
Photo: Australian War Memorial
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