Elderly die in virus outbreak
Four elderly people belived to be in their nineties have died following a respiratory virus outbreak at an aged care hospital near Cairns in North Queensland.
Tests confirmed the presence of human metapneumovirus (hMPV) at Herberton Hospital where another eight residents and 15 staff are ill.
Thirty-six people live at the Herberton Hospital, which provides aged care as well as respite and palliative care.
The region's director of public health, Dr Richard Gair, said the hospital has taken precautions to stop the virus spreading further, including limiting visitors, restricting new admissions and asking unwell staff to stay home.
Cairns Health and Hospital Service will continue to monitor the outbreak and take appropriate infection control precautions to minimise the risk of further cases, Dr Gair said.
It is the first time there has been an outbreak of the virus in a Far North Queensland public health facility.
Summer outbreaks of the illness have been reported in other parts of Queensland and New South Wales.
Elderly people are more susceptible to the virus, which is spread from person to person.
Viral infections, including those caused by hMPV, were common in the community but vulnerable people – including the elderly – may suffer more serious respiratory illness which could sometimes lead to death.
Severe symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, cough and pneumonia.
23 January 2016.