Influenza could be bad this year. What does it mean for your practice?

by | Colds and Flu, Seasonal Health, What We're Talking About, Winter health

Influenza on the Rise

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has recently warned Australia is likely to see an increase in flu cases this winter and has encouraged people to get the flu injection.

This comes at a busy time for many practices as you are also trying to administer the additional COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable people and keep on top of business as usual activities.

Over the past two years, flu infection rates have been low in the community due to border closures, lockdowns and social distancing rules. 

We haven’t had much circulating flu for us to be naturally boosted and a greater proportion of people haven’t had a flu vaccine, leading to waned immunity. It is estimated that Australia has an under vaccinated population of between 20% – 30% due to the pandemic.

There are concerns cases will jump in coming months, along with an increase in COVID-19 cases. 

In additional to the vulnerable populations, experts also believe that we may have to keep a close eye on young children this winter who may not have had exposure to the flu or received a flu injection. This cohort could be at increased risk of contracting flu and become very unwell.

Testing for COVID-19 and the flu 

Work is underway to try and devise a single test that would check if a person has COVID-19 or the flu at the same time. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett said it would help provide faster diagnosis and care. 

“We are hoping that will be in place during winter, it might not be in place at the beginning of winter, but certainly I would expect we would be seeing multiplex testing in hospitals and for those at risk by mid-winter,” she said. 

Could we see ‘flurona’?

We may also see dual infections – when someone has COVID and influenza at the same time – sometimes dubbed “flurona”.

While this has occurred, the rates of dual infections globally have been low based on the limited research. Generally, under 1% of people with COVID also have influenza at the same time. Even with dual infections, people do not seem to be sicker than if they had COVID alone. Although the importance of such co-infection, especially in high-risk individuals and the elderly, cannot be ignored.

Useful Resources

Thanks to our friends at Cubiko, below are some additional resources that your practice may wish to access regarding preparing for flu season: