Why This Year’s Flu Season Could Be Extremely Dangerous for Kids and Kids on the Warning Hospitals Could Be Overwhelmed
- Australian medical professionals prepare for return of flu this season
- Influenza was subject to coronavirus restrictions in the past two years
- Flu was the leading cause of hospitalization of children before the pandemic
Australia completely eradicated the flu during the last two years of the pandemic, but experts warn it could return with a vengeance as the nation returns to normal life.
There were just 484 cases of influenza in the country till the end of August last year, with no deaths, compared to some 313,000 cases in 2019 with 953 deaths.
Even allowing 2019 to be an exceptionally bad year for the flu, with case numbers 27 times the five-year average, the change is dramatic.
However experts are warning Australia to be prepared to end the flu gap with domestic and international borders open and lockdowns now a thing of the past.
Once in a flu moon: Australia had just 484 cases of influenza as of the end of August last year, with no flu deaths during the unusually low season.
Before the pandemic, influenza was the leading cause of hospitalization for children under the age of five.
A Melbourne pediatrician says Australian hospitals will be prepared for the increasing number of children infected this year.
“Prior to the pandemic, influenza was the leading cause of hospitalization in children under five years of age,” Dr Margie Danchin told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘The return of influenza this year is going to pose a risk to children as a whole, especially very young children, whose immune systems are naive to the flu because they have never experienced it before.’
Influenza researcher Professor Ian Barr at WHO said that this inevitable flu will return this year.
“With increased travel and more porous borders, and lack of quarantine, and no testing for influenza at border sites, it is inevitable that it will return in this year,” Professor Barr said while speaking to NewsGP
While he doesn’t expect the dramatic numbers seen in 2019, he cautioned that it’s not impossible.
‘We may have a moderate season, but unless something dramatic happens overseas and we are not exposed to those viruses, we are unlikely to have a big season.’ he said.
And while hospitals and pediatricians may be preparing for cases of inbound influenza, some experts are concerned that people are tired of vaccines following the coronavirus vaccination campaign.
With increased travel and no lockdown, experts say increase in influenza cases is inevitable
One concern for this year’s flu season is vaccine fatigue, which could cause many people to skip the life-saving flu shot.
He fears it could mean that the opportunity to protect yourself from the flu shot this year is reduced.
“There will still be a problem, said Professor Barr, persuading people, especially young people and those with children, to re-vaccinate their children for something else.”
Virologist Dr Kirsty Short of the University of Queensland expressed hope that the sparse number of cases last year would mean that the flu virus would be less likely to mutate into a new version that would be resistant to current flu vaccines.
But he warned of complacency and the risk of a major flu outbreak on top of the Covid pandemic.
‘It’s definitely something we all need to see,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Because the last thing we want is to have a bad flu season after seeing everything with covid.’