One of Australia’s largest health insurers warns of ‘triple pandemic’ as Kerry Chant issues warning: ‘Perfect winter storm’
- Vulnerable people are urged to get vaccinated
- Kerry Chant warned of an ‘early start’ to the flu season
- Bupa warns of a ‘triple pandemic’
Young children, elderly Australians and other vulnerable people are being urged to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu amid fears a range of viruses could create a ‘perfect winter storm’.
Health officials are monitoring trends and a possible early start to the flu season, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said Tuesday.
Top health insurer Bupa went one step further and warned of a ‘triple pandemic’.
It said modeling of the northern hemisphere indicated winter illnesses will arrive in Australia earlier than expected and will be worse than last year, likely requiring more people to be hospitalised.
Health officials are monitoring trends and considering a possible early start to the flu season, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant (pictured) said Tuesday
“It’s really, really hard to predict,” Dr Chant said on Tuesday.
“We are thinking about a possible early start to the flu season and a prolonged flu season.”
Influenza is expected to start circulating in the winter with COVID and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Dr. Chant said.
COVID transmissions and hospitalizations have also increased, especially in recent weeks – a trend that the elderly and other vulnerable groups should notice in particular.
Figures released last week showed 27,469 new Covid cases across Australia.
That was the highest in a week since the end of January, but 93.5 percent more than at the beginning of April last year.
Similarly, the latest figures showed there were 1,752 people in hospital with Covid nationwide, compared to 2,445 at the same time last year.
Flu shots are free in Australia for children under five, Indigenous peoples, pregnant women, people with asthma and other serious health conditions, and anyone over the age of 65.
These groups are at the highest risk of flu, says the Australian Medical Association.
Flu shots are free in Australia for children under five, Indigenous peoples, pregnant women, people with asthma and other serious health conditions and anyone over 65 (stock image)
Shots are available from GP surgeries and are also available from pharmacies for adults and children over the age of five.
Australia has already recorded more than 21,000 flu cases this year – far more than during the pandemic.
Nicole Higgins, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said people have increased their travel and stopped measures such as wearing masks and diligent washing of hands that allow flu to spread.
In the US, hospitalizations this season are significantly higher than last year.
Those flu trends would likely be mirrored in Australia, Bupa’s chief medical officer Tony MacDermott said.
“We expect a perfect storm of flu, COVID-19 and other flu-like viruses to come together this winter,” he said.
NSW Premier Chris Minns urged people to get vaccinated, aiming to increase the vaccination rate from about 40 percent of people in the state to 50 percent.
“We all want to make sure that our nurses, our paramedics, our doctors and those who work in healthcare are not rushed during the busy winter period,” Mr Minns said.
All adults are eligible for COVID boosters six months after their last infection or six months after their most recent injection.
Babies under six months of age are not eligible for a flu shot.