Influenza claims two lives as virus sweeps Sydney : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Wednesday, September 6 3:35 PM SGT

Influenza claims two lives as virus sweeps Sydney SYDNEY, Sept 6 (AFP) - Health officials on Wednesday warned athletes and tourists arriving for the Olympics to seek vaccines for a 'flu virus now threatening millions here after claiming at least two lives.

Two children have already died and up to 800,000 people overall have been infected during Sydney's seasonal influenza epidemic, state health authorities for New South Wales told AFP.

Every influenza epidemic claims lives, so visitors over 65 years old, or with a history of respiratory illness visiting Sydney, should get a vaccination, a senior Health Department epidemiologist said.

As the number of flu cases rises, the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) has offered vaccinations to all athletes.

Elite sports men and women, along with the elderly, children and respiratory illness sufferers, are ironically most vulnerable to the virus.

Two strains of the virus, known as Sydney influenza types A and B, swept Britain and Europe during recent northern hemisphere winters, claiming dozens of lives.

A New South Wales Health Department epidemiologist, Jeremy McAnulty, said that up to one-fifth of Sydney's four-million strong population could be affected.

"Typically, the flu comes into a community and affects 10 to 20 percent of the population," McAnulty said.

"We encourage vaccinations, but particularly stress them to people over 65."

The sick, frail and elderly were the most likely to develop fatal complications, he said.

"It is what you would expect in any community," McAnulty said.

"In context of a flu epidemic, you expect...deaths among people at risk."

Local health authorities advise that all Australians aged over 65, and Aborigines over 50, to seek vaccinations as a matter of course.

US Olympic team members have already been prescribed anti-flu medication.

"These athletes have prepared their whole lives to compete in the Olympic Games, so it is important that we take appropriate measures to keep everyone participating healthy," Brock Schnebel, the US Olympic Committee's senior physician, said last month.

A senior physician at the New Children's Hospital in Sydney told the Daily Telegraph the number of children needing medical treatment during the outbreak had doubled in the past two weeks, and two of them had died.

"We are getting a peak in our flu season now and it's appearing later than it did last year," Alison Kesson said.

"We haven't had a bad winter at all, but in the last week or two, we've had an upsurge.

"There's been a resurgence and most of it is influenza Sydney A," she said.

The World Health Organisation issued a flu warning for Sydney earlier this month.

"If I was an Olympic athlete, I would have had my flu shots," Alan Hampson, a doctor attached to the WHO's Collaborating Centre For Influenza, said.

Hampson warned Olympic crowds provided an ideal environment for transmission of the virus.

Seasonal influenza breakouts usually occur here between July and September here, or the winter and early spring months in the southern hemisphere.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, muscle pain, persistent cough, headache and throat irritation.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 06, 2000


As I read this I think 1918 and all those soldiers returning from the war in France.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 06, 2000.

Gosh, this must sure be good news for all those athletes all over the world now converging on Australia for the Olympics.

-- Uncle Fred (, September 06, 2000.

Just a reminder!

Subject: Delays, shortages in flu vaccine expected

Published Friday, June 23, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News Delays, shortages in flu vaccine expected New York Times

Shipments of influenza vaccine for the fall will be significantly delayed and there may be shortages because of manufacturing problems, federal officials said Thursday.

In disclosing the surprising development, the officials told clinics, hospitals and other health care providers to delay mass influenza immunization campaigns for at least a month and to make provisions to immunize people at highest risk first. Preparations are now under way for the immunizations, which are usually conducted from October through mid-November.

The shipment delay was attributed in part to laboratory difficulties in growing two new influenza strains in this year's vaccine.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 06, 2000.

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