Covid Australia: Queensland CHO says we should ‘absolutely’ treat flu like COVID-19
Spiraling flu numbers have prompted an urgent warning from one of the country’s top doctors that Australians must treat the disease as seriously as Covid.
A flu epidemic is sweeping the country after Covid lockdowns and precautions kept the disease at bay for more than two years.
But now, with mask mandates lifted and no natural immunity after years of isolation and protection from flu outbreaks, the disease is making a devastating comeback.
Rising flu numbers have prompted an urgent warning from Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. John Gerrard, that Australians should treat the disease as seriously as Covid.
In Queensland, almost twice as many seriously ill patients with flu are in intensive care as with Covid.
And in NSW, flu numbers continue to climb, with more than 200 being rushed to hospital last week – one in seven of them in children under the age of four.
Nearly 1,300 people in NSW have been hospitalized with flu this year, and nearly 9,500 showed up in emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms.
“The number of complete respiratory infections we have seen so far this year is unprecedented,” said Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard.
“We have not been exposed to this virus in the past two and a half years.”
He said Australians should “absolutely” treat the disease in the same way as Covid, both to try to avoid it and to stop its spread.
He stressed that anyone affected by the flu should stay home while they recover.
“That will be the way we move forward,” he said.
“The days of stoically coughing and sneezing with a sore throat and fever for being a good soldier are gone.”
A flu epidemic sweeps the country after Covid lockdowns and precautions kept the disease at bay for more than two years
However, he did not advocate a return to mask mandates, but encouraged people to get a flu shot as soon as possible.
Flu use is critically low among teens, he warned.
“I think the people of Queensland are starting to get the message, but it’s critical that if you haven’t had your flu vaccine, get it now,” he said.
In NSW, chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant echoed that message.
“Influenza immunization rates are not where they should be,” she said. Only one in three people in NSW have received their flu vaccine this year.
‘We really need to see that number increase, especially among vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly who are most at risk of serious illness.’
Nationwide, just over 9 million people have been vaccinated against the flu, but about two-thirds of the country is still at risk.
NSW is the most vaccinated state, with over 2.8 million stung, but Victoria is close behind at 2.5 million. Fewer than 1.8 million have been vaccinated in Queensland.
Nearly 1,300 people in NSW have been hospitalized with the flu this year, with nearly 9,500 showing up to the emergency room struggling to breathe with flu-like symptoms
Northern Territory has the lowest intake at just 63,000, with 190,000 vaccinated in the ACT, 232,000 in Tasmania, 748,000 in South Australia and 855,000 in WA.
dr. Chant warned that the worst is yet to come from the current outbreak of the ‘Influenza A’ strain.
“We anticipate an increase in flu activity in the winter and in the spring,” she said.
“The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from the harmful effects of the flu.
“I want to thank everyone who has already come forward to get their shot, but there is still work to be done.
“The flu vaccine will remain free for all residents of NSW for another seven days, so please book now to take advantage of this important immunity-boosting initiative.”