Flu cases in Ballarat are 66 per cent higher than last year with 126 confirmed cases notified to the health department this year, including two deaths.
Two residents of Ballarat Health Service’s Talbot Place Aged Care Facility died in July, and a further 16 residents and six staff fell ill during the influenza outbreak.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the last case was confirmed on July 20 and the outbreak declared over on July 28.
News of the deaths comes after eight people died following an influenza outbreak at the St John’s Retirement Village in Wangaratta.
The confirmed toll of 126 cases of influenza reported in Ballarat compared to 76 at the same time last year and 113 for the same period in 2015.
Victoria’s acting chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton said there had been more than 11,800 confirmed cases of influenza in Victoria this year with many more notifications still expected.
He said flu outbreaks, particularly in aged care facilities, were also at very high levels with 222 respiratory outbreaks reported this year compared with 117 for the same period last year.
“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.”
Dr Sutton said flu was highly contagious and spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.
Influenza has put a significant strain on Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital and nearby St John of God Hospital dealing with a massive increase in patients presenting with flu-like symptoms.
At the Base, elective surgeries have been put on hold and adult patients are sharing space with the children’s ward as the hospital copes with one of the state’s worst flu seasons.
St John of God has reported a record high in influenza cases, while at the Base there has been a 45 to 49 per cent increase in patients with flu-like symptoms.
Dr Sutton said good hand hygiene was the best way to halt the spread of flu.
“You should always wash your hands immediately after sneezing, coughing or going to the toilet with soap and running water and dry your hands thoroughly.”