How to tell if your or your child's flu is serious enough to go to the hospital.


As Victorian mum Sarah Hawthorn remains in a coma after catching the flu, donations have been flooding in to support her.

Hawthorn, who caught the flu while pregnant, delivered her baby boy on August 28, five weeks early. Since then she has been in an induced coma. A fundraising page set up for her describes her condition as “critical”.

The page has already exceeded its $20,000 fundraising target.

Sarah remains in a coma after giving birth. (Image: Facebook)

“We have been overwhelmed by the support and concern shown for our family,” her sister-in-law Rachael Holt says on the page.

Holt says Hawthorn remains unaware that she has given birth to “the most perfect little baby boy". She says the baby, “Bomber Hawk”, won’t be named until his mum wakes from her coma.

News of Hawthorn’s condition follows the tragic announcement that another Victorian, eight-year-old Rosie Andersen, died from the flu last Friday.

Mamamia asked NSW Health Pathology’s senior medical virologist Professor Bill Rawlinson to answer some of our questions about influenza.

How much longer will this flu season go for?

The good news is, not much longer. Although people can still get it, the virus is starting to disappear. “All the numbers look like it’s coming down,” Professor Rawlinson says.

“It’s come up very suddenly at the start of August, end of July. Similarly, you get this very steep decline that’s been occurring over the last couple of weeks. It’s not over, but it’s certainly on the way down.”

Are pregnant women at risk of more serious complications when it comes to the flu?

Professor Rawlinson says they are, along with other immunocompromised people, such as those who’ve had transplants. Plus, people who are already parents are more likely to catch the flu in the first place. “If you’ve got kids, everybody knows you’re at more risk of upper respiratory infection. That includes colds, but also influenza.” He believes that in a household where someone is pregnant, over 65, or immunocompromised, everyone should be vaccinated against the flu.


What should you do if you think you’ve caught the flu?

See your GP as soon as possible. Professor Rawlinson says it’s important to identify early on whether someone actually has influenza, or if it’s just a cold. “There are anti-virals available,” he adds. “They need to be started within one or two days of getting symptoms for the first time.”

How do you know when your child’s flu is serious enough to warrant another trip to the GP or possibly even to emergency?

Professor Rawlinson believes parents need to trust their own instincts. “If a parent says, ‘Look, he’s never looked like this. I don’t know why but he looks really sick,’ that’s actually a very good indicator. That’s the best indicator.”

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What’s the best way to stop the spread of flu?

“If you think you’ve got the flu, don’t go to childcare, don’t go to work,” Professor Rawlinson advises. “Stay at home, cover your mouth.” He also believes people should get the vaccine. “If you didn’t get it this year and it’s too late, think about it for next year, particularly if you’re in those risk groups.”

As for people saying the vaccine wasn’t effective this year, Professor Rawlinson says it’s too early to tell. “We’ve got a lot of cases but it’s not the busiest year ever. The match between the vaccine and the virus will be judged at the end of the year.”