Canberra mother dies after contracting influenza

Tributes have been paid to a Canberra mother-of-two who has died due to complications believed to be linked to influenza.

Jennifer Thew, from Gungahlin, died over the weekend in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons Australia has ever seen.

A friend of Ms Thew described her as a "beautiful, gentle soul" in a statement on behalf of her family.

ACT woman Jennifer Thew died of complications believed to be linked to influenza over the weekend. Photo: Supplied

ACT woman Jennifer Thew died of complications believed to be linked to influenza over the weekend. Photo: Supplied

"Jen was a beautiful, gentle soul and, above all, the most devoted mother," the statement read.

"We are absolutely heart broken that she has been taken from us in such cruel circumstances. We are so grateful to the medical teams in Canberra and Sydney that fought so hard to save her life.

"We are also grateful for all the beautiful community support - we have been overwhelmed by all the love. We are rallying around her husband Ben and their beautiful children."

ACT health minister Meegan Fitzharris expressed her sympathy for the woman's family.

"I've read media reports this morning and like every person in Canberra and around the country who's read this report, feel so sad to hear this news," Ms Fitzharris said.

"[She was] a young mum I understand from Gungahlin so likely to have lots of connections  particularly with young children, I understand [she] played a role in the community as well so my sincerely  condolences to her family. They will be obviously going through a really difficult time at the moment."

Ms Fitzharris believed the woman was a patient at one of Canberra's hospitals but ACT Health were unable to confirm this as of 10am.

She reiterated the importance of getting a flu vaccine, even as the flu season is drawing to a close.

"I know in particular  in Victoria we've seen some very sad situations and also a widespread impact of flu, particularly on older people in the community where it's contracted particularly in a residential aged care facility, can have really serious  consequences," Ms Fitzharris said.

"We also need to talk about the federal government's role in making  sure that the flu vaccine is readily available to people that may already be vulnerable  or people working particularly in healthcare settings or in other workplaces where there may be vulnerable people."

A Canberra mother has died due to complications linked to the flu. Photo: Gabrielle Charotte

A Canberra mother has died due to complications linked to the flu. Photo: Gabrielle Charotte

Australia is in the grip of its worst influenza outbreak in 15 years, according to health experts.

Nationally, there have been twice as many cases reported between January and July 2017 compared to 2016.

There have been more than 13,000 cases of influenza reported in Victoria this year and more than 105,000 cases nationally.

At least 10 people had died from flu-related complications.

The latest to fall victim to the flu epidemic was eight-year-old girl Rosie Andersen, from Upper Ferntree Gully, east of Melbourne.

Earlier this month, 30-year-old father Ben Ihlow died on what should have been his first Father's Day with his baby son.

Victorian mother Sarah Hawthorn has been in a critical condition at The Alfred for four weeks after being struck down by the flu in the late stges of her pregnancy.

The 33-year-old's baby was delivered five weeks premature during an emergency birth on August 28.

The infant boy, nicknamed "Bomber Hawk", won't be named until his mum wakes from her coma, friends say.

Seven residents of an aged care facility in north-east Victoria died after a flu outbreak earlier this month.

Canberra has also experienced a record number of flu cases in 2017.

The president of the Australian Medical Association ACT, Stephen Robson, has previously said the early start to the season caught many off guard, leading to fewer people receiving influenza vaccinations.

"No doubt the flu season began a lot easier than it had in previous years, and certainly a lot more people have been affected, particularly older people in their 80s and children under 10.

"It's been quite a bad year for those groups."

ACT acting chief health officer Dr Andrew Pengilley told the ABC that ACT Health had received more than 2,000 flu notifications in 2017, compared to about 840 in 2016.

Figures also show more than 800 people were diagnosed with influenza in the territory since July 11.

During the past five years, flu reports have increased by 46 per cent.

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