Flu Alert as SA Cases Rise

Five times as many South Australians have caught the flu so far this year compared to the same year last year, sparking warnings of a dangerous season ahead with a survey showing only 40 percent of people plan to get sick. to be vaccinated.

While the number of cases is currently low – 67 compared to 12 for the same time last year – doctors are concerned that infections could increase with the return from international travel, easing of COVID restrictions and community complacency.

Doctors are especially concerned about the potential impact on young, low-immunity children who have never been exposed to the flu, which was minimal during the coronavirus pandemic due to social distancing, isolation and lack of travel.

dr. Rod Pearce, the Adelaide GP who is also chairman of the National Immunization Coalition, said: “It’s hard to remember now before COVID, but we used to worry about that – we used to get deaths from flu”.

“We still have the same problem – flu can still kill us,” he told InDaily

The immunization coalition says that prior to COVID, around 3,000 Australians died in a typical flu year – more than the annual toll.

“The problem is we’re not isolating anymore, we travel internationally and haven’t seen the flu in two years,” Pearce said.

“So the response to that is our immune system is down, we haven’t seen it, we’re being flooded, and if there’s also COVID, we’ve got two nasty diseases, so that’s the risk this year.

“And there are some kids who have never seen the flu virus, so we have two-year-olds who haven’t seen it yet, and under five is a vulnerable age group.”

Pearce said doctors were keeping a close eye on what was happening in other parts of the world for signs of what could be coming in Australia.

“The Northern Hemisphere had a lot of flu, the flu went up this winter — COVID came out, just like the flu,” he said.

“They had a more serious illness, both in the UK and the US, because there’s a mixture of flu and COVID.”

Pearce said a recent survey of 25,000 Australians conducted by the Immunization Coalition found that only 40 percent of South Australians planned to get the flu vaccine this year.

This was 42 percent across the country.

Although vaccination rates were even lower last year due to a lack of flu activity, Pearce said, “Normally at this time of year when we do a survey, about 60 or 70 percent of the population will want to be vaccinated.”

“We’re worried that people aren’t really going to take the vaccines because they’ve had two years where there was no flu and we vaccinated a lot in 2020, wasn’t necessary, 2021 was like ‘who cares,'” Peerce said.

SA Health figures show there are 67 cases of flu in the state as of today, compared to 12 for the same time last year.

The number of cases has already surpassed the total of 40 for the entire 2021 year, when the pandemic was in full swing with closed borders and people social distancing and wearing masks.

In 2020 – the first year of the pandemic – there were 1,583 cases.

That came after a massive 2019 flu season with 27,093 cases in SA.

“In 2019, we were caught out when we didn’t have the vaccines ready and we started having outbreaks in nursing homes,” Pearce said.

Learning from past mistakes, the vaccination season was brought forward in 2020.

“When COVID came along, we started having flu outbreaks, so we panicked and did a lot of rapid flu vaccines because we thought we were going to be overwhelmed with that,” Pearce said.

“People started isolating, so it went down partly because of the vaccination, partly because of the isolation.”

SA Health figures show there have been no flu deaths so far this year, there were none last year, three in 2020 and 120 in 2019.

Pearce said he was nervous this year about the level of complacency in the community.

“If we’re still wearing masks and still keeping social distancing it won’t be that bad, but people have forgotten they haven’t had the flu, they haven’t had that annual boost to get the flu, they don’t have the annual flu vaccine.” ,” he said.

dr. Louise Flood, director of SA Health’s communicable disease control division, is also concerned about what could happen to flu in SA this year.

“The flu season varies from year to year, and while it is impossible to predict the severity of the season, we may see more cases this year with international travel back on the table and COVID restrictions easing,” she said.

“While flu activity has been low so far this year, the flu is still in the community and numbers could increase at any time.”

Flood and Pearce said the best thing people could do to protect themselves against the flu was to get vaccinated.

“We will strongly encourage families with toddlers to make sure their child gets a flu vaccine this year because they may not have been exposed to the flu in the past two years and their immunity will be lower,” Flood said.

“Through the National Immunization Programme, the flu vaccine is free for a number of groups, including pregnant women and all children from six months to under five years of age.”

Flood also urged people to “continue to practice good hand hygiene, wipe surfaces, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm, and stay home if you are sick”.

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