37 dead of flu in NSW as parents urged to get children vaccinated

Health authorities are urging NSW families to get young children vaccinated against the potentially deadly influenza, with the infection killing 37 people in NSW so far this year.

Three children have died of flu in Victoria and children are also among the 25 flu-related deaths, sparking concerns that children in NSW – especially under-five-year-olds – could also be vulnerable amid the spread of the viruses across the state.



A total of 37 people have died of flu-related illnesses in NSW since January: 30 people aged 65 and older, and seven aged 20 to 64, NSW Health’s analysis of flu notification and Births, Deaths and Marriages data shows.

The number of flu cases in NSW is also rising. There were 1320 new confirmed cases in the week ending 19 May, higher than the 979 confirmed cases the previous week.


The latest cases brings the total number of confirmed cases so far this year to 13,888, and the true prevalence is likely higher.

The high rates of flu during the warmer months and the early start to the flu season has triggered the highest number of flu cases in Australia ahead of winter in two decades. The vast majority of cases are Influenza A strains.

NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard said children are particularly susceptible to flu, and urged parents and carers to visit their GPs to receive the free flu vaccine for children aged six months to five years old.

Two children under five years, and four five- to 19 year-olds died of flu in 2017 in NSW. Another two children under five died in 2018.

"The best weapon against flu is vaccination and right now is the best time to have it as the flu season is already here," Dr Sheppeard said.


"It’s important to get your flu shots now as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection and children under nine years of age having the shot for the first time require two doses, one month apart," she said.

In 2018 – the first year of the NSW Government's free vaccination program for six month to five-year-olds – one in four children in this age group were recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register as having received an influenza vaccine.

Flu shots are also free under the National Immunisation Program, for pregnant women, people over 65 years of age, Aboriginal people and those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems.

As of 19 May, 1.96 million flu vaccine doses had been distributed in NSW.