Seven elderly people have died at a single nursing home in Victoria within a fortnight and further deaths are likely, as a large-scale influenza outbreak sweeps through the facility.
Of the 146 residents and around 200 staff at St John's Retirement Village in Wangaratta in Victoria's north-east, 123 have caught the flu in recent weeks, Victoria's health department has confirmed.
The first patient died on August 16, with most others dying in the past week as a result of a single outbreak, Victoria's Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton confirmed in a press conference on Friday afternoon.
All those who died were aged between 70 and 94 years old and had underlying health conditions which made them particularly susceptible.
An eighth resident was critically ill, Dr Sutton said, and "unfortunately, another death may be expected".
"We are at the peak of one of the worst flu seasons ever and the elderly are one of the highest risk age groups," Dr Sutton said.
"Sadly, for the frail -- and people with underlying health conditions -- the flu can be very serious."
The Health Officer said there were no failures on the part of health care workers in preventing or containing the outbreak, "but we can always do better".
"It's very contagious. Aged care facilities -- it's not a prison, people can move around," he said.
"The elderly can sometimes wander about and infect others, so it can become very hard to manage."
The outbreak is now subsiding, the Department of Health and Human Services said, although flu outbreaks remain at very high levels across Australia.
In another outbreak last month, three elderly residents at a nursing home in the outer Melbourne suburb of Mulgrave died of influenza and another 35 were infected, the Herald Sun reports.
Dr Sutton has urged the public to ensure good hand washing procedures and to avoid visiting aged care facilities if ill.
He also called on all aged care health workers to get the flu shot, although he also acknowledged that this wasn't effective against certain strains of the virus.
Australia is currently at the peak of the worst flu season on record, with more than 90,000 cases of flu in four active strains of the virus recorded so far this year -- including over 11,000 in Victoria.
The previous influenza record occurred in 2015, when more than 100,000 people tested positive for the flu. Analysis by the Immunisation Coalition shows 2017 is set to far outstrip those figures.
Around 3,500 people die of the flu each year across the nation, typically affecting the elderly and very young children the most severely.Suggest a correction