By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Health care workers in Australia are blaming World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrims for an outbreak of unusual strains of flu viruses that have been occurring in Australia since the July event.
According to the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Health, there are four main strains of flu circulating in the area since the week-long WYD celebration in July, with higher than usual levels of type B influenza.
Nurses are also reporting high rates of virulent infections among hospital patients with “new and unusual strains of flu from exotic places” implying that the influx of 250,000 WYD pilgrims from 100 different countries are to blame.
“It’s certain that some of (the pilgrims) would have been sick,” Dr. Gordian Fulde, head of the emergency department at St. Vincent’s Hospital told the Australia’s Daily Telegraph after completing research into the health impact of WYD.
“That’s a public health problem – the world really is now a small place. If you are sick but have got an airline ticket to somewhere, you will go and take that cold or virus with you.”
Dr Fulde said the flu virus appeared to be more virulent this year.
While it is common for the flu to spread from the northern hemisphere into Australia and it would be difficult to prove that pilgrims are responsible for the outbreaks, NSW Health claims pilgrims were indeed treated for the flu during WYD.
“Flu viruses circulate around the world and are imported into Australia constantly, particularly in autumn from the northern hemisphere,” a NSW Health spokesman said.
“This year, pilgrims attending World Youth Day suffered a number of outbreaks of influenza.”
However, he added: “It is impossible to say whether the strains were introduced by pilgrims.”
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