YOUNG children in the region have not been immune to the soaring influenza rates and hospitalisations from the virus infecting the nation.
Grampians Public Health Unit chief strategy and regions officer Robert Grenfell said the uptick in children admitted to Ballarat Base Hospital was on trend with the national issue.
Dr Grenfell said the high flu rates - also furloughing hospital staff - amid persistent COVID-19 admissions were hampering efforts to do all the other important work hospitals needed to do. He said each admission was effectively taking up a bed that could have been for a patient needing a hip or knee replacement, for example.
He called on the public to show understanding as staff kept up with demand and he urged people to ensure they were up-to-date with vaccinations, for influenza and COVID-19, to prevent severe illness and hospitalisations - this included children.
Youngsters aged under-10 are being infected with the flu at clearly higher rates than other age groups, with more than 300 children aged under-16 being admitted to hospital this season, the national surveillance report to the end of last month shows.
"It's a double whammy for us," Dr Grenfell said. "It's a reminder the vaccine is available for anyone over the age of six months and it's probably been bad became we've had limited flu seasons through the COVID-19 pandemic when so many were restricting contact."
There have been 269 influenza cases reported to Victoria's health department this year, compared to 447 by the same time last year.
Dr Grenfell said having the flu last year was not always protection from a bad case this season because influenza strains could radically change - and this was why vaccines were important.
The flu could be particularly serious for people who live with chronic disease, especially if they were unvaccinated, Dr Grenfell said. Children were particularly vulnerable due to low exposure to viruses and low vaccination rates.
Only about half the proportion of children have received the influenza vaccine this year, compared to last year.
While COVID-19 jabs are free to all, the council found the cost of flu jabs could be a barrier for families once a child was older than five years old.
Dr Grenfell said the latest COVID-19 wave in Ballarat was also on trend with what the state was experiencing and what had been predicted. And he made clear the virus had far from gone away yet.
"It's been a long, slow peak...it is a grind for us," Dr Grenfell said.
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COVID-19 infections have long been tough to gauge amid self-reporting and Dr Grenfell said the best measure they had was based in the number of hospital admissions.
The average number of people with COVID-19 in hospital intensive care units the past week has been 13 with about 50 COVID-19 related deaths each month.
Dr Grenfell said alarmingly, two in three people were not adequately vaccinated.
All adults are urged to get a COVID-19 booster if it has been six months since their last booster or infection.
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