Authorities are bracing for a new surge in the flu as children return to school this week, with 10 confirmed deaths already this season, including a child aged under five.

At a meeting with Health Minister Kim Hames this week, doctors called on him to consider new anti-flu measures such as supplying hand sanitisers in schools to reduce infection spreading.

They also want him to authorise the mass release of anti-viral medication for flu patients at high risk of complications. And they believe sick people should be encouraged to use face masks when they have to be around others.

By yesterday, the Australian Medical Association claimed the Government was not moving quickly enough as the focus of health advice became less about vaccination - as time ran out for people to protect themselves this winter - and more about stopping further infection spreading.

The Health Department said the 10 deaths, including a young child and two young adults, compared with 22 flu deaths during all of last year and 15 deaths in 2010.

Two of the deaths were reported as recently as yesterday.

Laboratory-confirmed cases, which are an indicator of wider flu activity in the community, have hit 1638 so far this year, compared with 1887 cases for all of last year.

Dr Hames said health officials would keep a close eye on flu activity with back-to-school imminent.

He urged parents not to send sick children to school.

"I know this can be a tough ask for parents coming off the back of school holidays, however influenza is a highly infectious disease, particularly in children, so it's important to keep them home so they don't infect others," he said.

"This flu season is certainly heavy but it is not unprecedented.

"It has hit earlier than normal, however it is comparable to what we experienced in 2007.

"It is still not too late to get vaccinated although the window is rapidly diminishing as it takes a couple of weeks to take full effect."

Dr Hames said the Health Department was considering other measures to combat the flu, including an advertising campaign.

AMA State president Richard Choong said there was a good chance the flu season would worsen, with the peak often not seen until August.

Dr Choong said parents had a responsibility not to send sick children to school where they could infect others.

He said while schools should be providing sanitisers for students and teachers, he advised parents to make sure their children had their own supply.

"We know one of the ways influenza spreads is by not keeping your hands clean," he said.

"The Government's got to do more with some serious plans as school goes back, otherwise it could go like wildfire. The reason we met with the minister is because many doctors are very alarmed by what they're seeing."

The Education Department said it would comply with Health Department advice on flu control.

The West Australian

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