Warning of looming ‘triple threat’ of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) for Australia this winter (2023-03-14 03:40:36)
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Medical experts are warning a looming “triple threat virus” could hit Australia hard during flu season this winter — so now is the time to get vaccinated to avoid serious illness.
A new mix of illnesses is set to emerge in the colder season, with a combination of the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) creating a horror run of widespread illness in countries across the northern hemisphere earlier this year.
The illnesses pose a particular risk to children and immunocompromised adults.
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Last year, 225,332 cases of influenza were confirmed in Australia, with 308 influenza-associated deaths recorded.
Children aged five to nine years old were particularly affected, according to the Department of Health and Aged Care.
Between January and November 2022, 8824 COVID-19 deaths were also recorded.
Deaths due to respiratory diseases – including chronic lower respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia – were also among the leading causes of death in the country.
Infectious and respiratory diseases physician Dr Nick Coatsworth said it was crucial healthcare providers did not get overwhelmed by those seeking vaccination.
“There is a triple threat this year with the combination of flu, COVID-19 and RSV, and the urgency for early protection is real, but as GPs and hospitals across the country stretch their capacity to record levels, the demand is only going to worsen if we all get sick,” Coatsworth said.
“GPs play a critical role in our national healthcare system, and it’s important that we support them during this crisis by considering simple and effective ways to ease their burdens.
“One way we can do that is by taking a collaborative approach, working with our pharmacist colleagues to deliver key services, and that is especially true for flu and COVID-19 vaccinations,” he said.
TerryWhite Chemmart chief pharmacist Brenton Hart said the vaccination service provided by pharmacists was part of this approach.
Hart added that it is crucial for people to get their vaccinations up-to-date in time for winter, even as many continue to experience vaccine fatigue.
“As we have seen with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, people can unknowingly have the flu and gravely affect our most vulnerable. The more we suppress influenza through vaccination, the less opportunity the virus has to mutate and infect people,” Hart said.
“Lastly, getting a flu vaccination reduces your odds of getting sick from the flu.
“If you do, your illness would likely be less severe.
“A 2018 study found that flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with flu by 59 percent and a 2014 study showed that flu vaccination reduced children’s risk of flu-related paediatric intensive care unit admission by 74 percent,” Hart said.
Warning of looming ‘triple threat’ of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) for Australia this winter
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