Covid-19 and influenza in Australia: strong storm of factors hit hard

Australia has just passed a grim milestone that no one expected 12 months ago. Now doctors say the worst is yet to come as Covid-19 and flu collide.

Australia has just passed a grim milestone that no one expected 12 months ago. But now GPs say the worst is yet to come as Covid-19 and this winter’s vicious strain of flu clash.

Australia’s Covid-19 death toll topped 10,000 on Sunday. More than three-quarters of them have occurred since January of this year.

The increase in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths is so significant that NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard called people “crazy” on Tuesday. because they have not yet received the third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“If you had two [doses]or one, and you don’t have a third, to put it bluntly, you’re crazy,” Mr. Hazzard said.

NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant said hospitalizations could rise to levels seen in January as new variants of the Omicron strain, BA.4 and BA.5, approach an expected peak later this month.

“This picture worries me,” she said, adding that the simultaneous spread of the flu was also worrisome.

Australia has largely lifted all restrictions from 2020 and 2021, when the drive to vaccinate the population dominated.

Although they vary from state to state, mask-wearing regulations have been lifted in all places except those with vulnerable populations such as schools, aged care facilities, hospitals and public transportation.

While state and territory leaders have adopted a “living with Covid-19” approach, experts are adamant that the pandemic is not over yet. And the data backs it up.

As Australia grapples with Covid-19, GPs say flu season looks to be the worst in a generation.

Dr Bruce Willett of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) said he had never seen a winter like this.

“I’ve been a GP for 35 years and I really haven’t seen a winter like this where we see such an unusually high number of flu cases.” Dr. Willett told ABC News.

He said a record number of flu infections and a slew of other viruses have created a “perfect storm” that is wreaking havoc on the healthcare system and causing patients to wait longer than in years to see a GP.

Written by Bond University Professor of Medicine Paul Glaziou and Bond University Professor of Evidence-Based Practice David Henry, the article details how concerned Australians should be about Covid-19 and the flu.

“This year we saw both the Omicron wave and the reappearance of influenza,” they wrote in an article for Talk.

“After the pandemic almost disappeared for two years, the lifting of most restrictions (such as social distancing and working from home), the elimination of the use of masks and the opening of international borders allowed the flu to reappear.”

Significantly, they wrote that the Covid-19 death rate — that is, the proportion of those infected with the virus who do not survive — has “improved dramatically” from 3 percent in 2020 to about 0.1 percent this year.

Most of this comes from the number of people vaccinated, but Omicron is also a milder option than its predecessors.

The authors say the current mortality rate is “comparable to the seasonal influenza fatality rate seen in normal influenza years.”

But they note that the pandemic is “not over” and new sub-options will continue to “result in illness, hospitalization and death.”

Their advice? Boosters, masks and avoiding crowds.

“In winter, we must redouble our efforts to maintain the immunity of the population through revaccination, combined with reasonable protective measures,” they wrote.

“Make sure your Covid and flu vaccines are up to date, avoid crowded places (or wear a mask if you can’t) and avoid other people if you have any respiratory symptoms.”

It comes after an analysis of daily new confirmed coronavirus cases last week showed Australia’s seven-day rolling average of 1,100 cases per million people.

This is higher than in the US, UK, France and Italy, as well as in dozens of other Western countries.

The European average is only 398 cases per million people.

Originally published as Every 35 year flu season comes as Covid clashes with the flu