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No Flu Outbreak Here , West Australians Told

Barely 24 hours after it advised parents to seek urgent medical attention in case their children showed signs of respiratory illness , the West Australian Health Department said there was nothing to panic about.

The successive deaths of three Perth children younger than five past week - all killed within 24 hours of developing flu-like symptoms had triggered off panic.

The state communicable disease control Paul van Buynder had said tests had established that the three children had died from a combination of influenza A and a bacterial infection.

"Parents whose children have cold- or flu-like symptoms, including a cough and a fever, should see their general practitioner," he had counseled.

Predictably hundreds flocked to Perth's Princess Margaret Hospital on the weekend with sick toddlers in their arms, the Health Department urged families not to worry.

But Dr.Buynder himself now reassured the parents, "The Health Department has done a public health investigation and has looked for potential links between the three children who tragically passed away. We're confident that there is no link between the three, and this has been an unfortunate circumstance that's clustered in time.

"We are maintaining our advice to parents in Perth that if their child is lethargic, has a fever and is unwell with a cough, that they should seek early medical attention.

"However, in view of the extra information, we are aware that there are many parents in the Perth area who have children with common colds and sniffles who are concerned.

"This is not the illness we are worried about, and there is no need for them to seek urgent medical care, particularly if their child has been unwell for some time."

GPs and hospitals have been inundated with children over the weekend.

Of the three children affected, two died at home before their families could seek medical attention. One died soon after arriving at Princess Margaret's emergency department.

Hospital staff had examined double the number of patients they would usually see, with 320 patients attending the hospital on Saturday compared with 159 the week before.

Staff at The Gold Coast Hospital admitted its Emergency Department had been bursting at the seems with 'traditional winter-bed demand' exacerbated by a colder-than-normal winter.

One local general practitioner told The Gold Coast Bulletin he had treated four patients suffering from pneumonia in a single morning last week.

The doctor said the number of serious flu-like diseases had skyrocketed in recent days.


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