Department of Health

Victorian flu deaths prompt further warning

01/09/17
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Victorians with flu are being warned again to avoid aged care facilities which are being hit by a severe flu season this year.

Victoria's Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton today confirmed that seven elderly residents had died following an influenza outbreak at the St John's Retirement Village in Wangaratta.

"We are at the peak of one of the worst flu seasons ever and the elderly are one of highest risk groups. In aged care facilities, the flu can spread quickly," Dr Sutton said.

"Sadly, for the frail - and people with underlying health conditions - the flu can be very serious. About 800 people in Victoria die each year from influenza - the most of any communicable disease."

Flu outbreaks, particularly in aged care facilities, are at very high levels. There have been 208 respiratory outbreaks this year compared with 104 for the same period last year.

So far in 2017, there have been more than 11,300 confirmed cases of influenza in Victoria with many more notifications still expected.

St John's Retirement Village has 146 residents and 200 staff. Of these, 123 were affected by the flu during an outbreak over the past few weeks.

The seven residents who died were aged between 70 and 94 and had other conditions that made them particularly susceptible.

The Department of Health and Human Services has worked with the facility to manage the outbreak, ensuring strict infection control measures. The outbreak is now subsiding.

Dr Sutton said flu is a highly contagious viral infection, spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.

"Good hand hygiene is strongly recommended to visitors to assist in controlling any spread of flu," Dr Sutton said.

"This is a timely reminder to all visitors that washing their hands with soap before visiting loved ones in aged care or hospital is extremely important.

"And if you are sick you should avoid visiting loved ones in an aged care facility or hospital.

"Hand hygiene gel is widely available for visitors in hospitals and aged care facilities, and should be used even if you are not unwell.

"If you are unwell with a cough or a cold, remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put the tissue straight in the bin.

"You should always wash your hands immediately afterward sneezing, coughing or going to the toilet with soap and running water and dry your hands thoroughly."

Reviewed 01 September 2017

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