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Flu outbreak was created by wet weather and Covid restrictions, leading to medicine shortage

Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions have left Australians with low immunity as the country faces a record-breaking flu season.

Professor Catherine Bennett, professor of epidemiology at Deakin University, told Daily Mail Australia that Covid restrictions combined with unusual weather are responsible for the 87,989 flu cases reported early this season.

“After two low flu seasons, in fact virtually no season in 2021, we don’t have the usual cross-immunity from recent exposure,” she said.

“We kicked off flu season early this year, in part because as international border restrictions and isolation requirements eased, travelers brought the virus from other countries that were still coming out of winter.

Australia's huge spike in flu cases is likely due to low immunity due to Covid restrictions and wet weather keeping people indoors

Australia’s huge spike in flu cases is likely due to low immunity due to Covid restrictions and wet weather keeping people indoors

“We’ve also had a very wet summer along parts of the East Coast, which may have helped create indoor mixing conditions that led to more localized dispersion than usual.”

dr. Bennett added that low flu vaccinations following massive Covid vaccination schedules could mean people are getting sick more often.

“Some people have stopped taking their flu shot in the last two years,” she said.

“This means we have less immunity to infections and potentially get more seriously ill than in pre-Covid years.”

Doctors advise people to manage their flu and Covid vaccination (above) to avoid severe flu as drug shortage persists

Doctors advise people to manage their flu and Covid vaccination (above) to avoid severe flu as drug shortage persists

Professor of Epidemiology at Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett (above) said the relaxed border restrictions have caused the flu to spread earlier than usual in Australia

Professor of Epidemiology at Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett (above) said the relaxed border restrictions have caused the flu to spread earlier than usual in Australia

Because flu medications are in short supply, Dr. Bennett recommends that people get the most out of available flu vaccines and focus on their general health.

“The most important thing is to get vaccinated against the flu, if you haven’t already. It fits well with the current circulating species, so it works well,” she said.

“If you do get an infection, make sure you don’t become dehydrated and take pain medication for headaches or sore muscles.

‘If you feel very unwell, it is important to see a doctor in time.’

Victorian president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Anthony Tassone and Woolworths have warned a sudden rise in flu cases has led to shortages of flu and pain medicines

Victorian president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Anthony Tassone and Woolworths have warned a sudden rise in flu cases has led to shortages of flu and pain medicines

Victorian president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Anthony Tassone said the sudden surge in demand for flu and pain medicines has created a shortage in pharmacies.

“There have been shortages of drugs used for pain and fever, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen – in products for children and adults,” he said.

“These shortages occurred intermittently during the Covid pandemic and may be due to sudden surges in demand that supply cannot keep up.”

Mr Tassone said he had seen the shortage firsthand at his Victorian pharmacy, where the number of cases is 278 times higher than at this time last year.

“Pharmacy teams are doing their best to get stock as quickly as possible and may be able to suggest an alternative,” he said.

A Woolworths spokesperson told the Daily Mail Australia that the supermarket giant is also short of essential flu products, including cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges and tissues.

The contagious ‘super flu’ started doing the rounds in March but started to spread rapidly in late May with 47,860 cases registered in just two weeks between May 23 and June 5.

Covid cases also remained high into the winter, with NSW reporting 7,260 new cases and 14 deaths on Tuesday and Victoria 8,687 new cases and 18 deaths on Wednesday.

Sydney GP Kean Seng Lim has called for mask mandates to be reinstated to prevent a flu and Covid combination outbreak (Photo: Shoppers in Sydney)

Sydney GP Kean Seng Lim has called for mask mandates to be reinstated to prevent a flu and Covid combination outbreak (Photo: Shoppers in Sydney)

Sydney GP Kean Seng Lim advised reinstating mask mandates to prevent a flu and Covid combination outbreak that would put enormous strain on Australia’s already overburdened public health system.

“I think we have a big problem,” he told the Today Show in late May.

“You have the covid and flu viruses that come together.

‘We will also have fewer staff. Not only because the staff is free because they are sick themselves, but also because their children and grandchildren are sick at schools and whether schools are declining because teachers are sick… everything is connected.’

The Australian Health Protection chief committee has recommended lifting mask mandates from airport terminals (Photo: Sydney Airport)

The Australian Health Protection chief committee has recommended lifting mask mandates from airport terminals (Photo: Sydney Airport)

Despite this advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) announced its recommendation on Wednesday to scrap mask mandates at airports by Friday, June 17.

Travelers no longer have to wear masks at the airport, only when boarding their flight.

Health Secretary Mark Butler and Infrastructure Secretary Catherine King said the AHPPC “anticipates that the traveling public will notice this change in the days following Friday” as states and territories make changes to their public health regulations.

“This amended advice comes after the AHPPC has assessed the current Covid-19 situation in Australia and finds it no longer proportionate to require the wearing of masks in terminals.”

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