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Australian parents oblivious to true danger of the flu

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After being hit with one of the worst flu seasons on record, Australian parents still need convincing of the serious consequences of the flu, with less than one in four children aged six months to four years receiving an influenza vaccine so far in 2018. New research investigating the devastating impact of the 2017 flu season by PAEDS-FluCAN, a national collaboration observing influenza in children, confirmed it was time to take action after thousands of children were hospitalised with the virus last year.

Journal/conference: Clinical Infectious Diseases

Organisation/s: Telethon Kids Institute

Funder: National Health and Medical Research Council

Media Release

From: Telethon Kids Institute

Australian parents oblivious to true danger of the flu 

After being hit with one of the worst flu seasons on record, Australian parents still need convincing of the serious consequences of the flu, with less than one in four children aged six months to four years receiving an influenza vaccine so far in 2018.

New research investigating the devastating impact of the 2017 flu season by PAEDS-FluCAN, a national collaboration observing influenza in children, confirmed it was time to take action after thousands of children were hospitalised with the virus last year.

“Influenza is a highly contagious disease that can lead to life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues, and multi-organ failure,” said study co-author Dr Chris Blyth from the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute.

“It is the most common vaccine-preventable cause of hospitalisation and infection-related death, more common than whooping cough and meningococcal disease, yet our research has shown parents are under-estimating the urgency to protect their children against the flu.”

Published today in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the results from the PAEDS-FLuCAN collaboration led to all Australian states and territories providing a free flu vaccine for children under five years in 2018.

“We need to help parents understand that the younger you are, the higher the risk of being hospitalised with the flu. This is because the first exposure to the virus is always the most severe, striking when the immune system is still developing. Aboriginal children and kids with chronic medical conditions are also at the greatest risk,” said Dr Blyth.

“Sadly, we have already seen one young child lose their life from influenza in NSW this year, so I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have your children vaccinated.

“Statistics from last year show that the highest number of cases occurred in late August, so it is not too late to protect your child from a potentially deadly case of the flu.”

The flu vaccine is registered for babies from six months of age onwards, and women are advised to receive the vaccine during pregnancy to provide protection to newborns in their most vulnerable first few months of life.

For more information about the flu vaccine and protecting your family from influenza, visit infectiousdiseases.telethonkids.org.au

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The paper detailing the study, Influenza epidemiology, vaccine coverage and vaccine effectiveness in children admitted to sentinel Australian hospitals in 2017: Results from the PAEDS-FluCAN Collaboration, was published on 21 August, 2018 -

https://academic.oup.com/cid/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/cid/ciy597

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