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


Why thousands of Australians are getting sick with a ‘super flu’ that’s NOT Covid – after lockdowns and travel restrictions cause low immunity amid a major change to mask rules

  • Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said weather and Covid created flu outbreak
  • She said wet weather kept people indoors while restrictions lowered immunity
  • Pharmacists and Woolworths reported a shortage of flu medicine and essentials
  • States are set to lift mask mandates from airport terminals by this Friday, June 17 

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

Chair in Epidemiology at Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett told Daily Mail Australia Covid restrictions coupled with unseasonable 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 had an early start to the flu season this year, partly because as international border restrictions and isolation requirements eased, travellers brought the virus from other countries still coming out of winter.

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

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

‘We also had a very wet summer along parts of the east coast which may have helped create indoor mixing conditions that lead to more local spread than usual.’

Dr Bennett added that low flu vaccination rates after mass Covid vaccination schemes could mean people will get more sick, more often.

‘Some people have stopped their flu shots over the last two years,’ she said.

‘This means we have less immunity against infection and may experience more severe illness than in pre-Covid years.’

Doctors recommend people stay on top of their flu and Covid vaccination (above) to avoid catching a severe flu as medicine shortages continue

Doctors recommend people stay on top of their flu and Covid vaccination (above) to avoid catching a severe flu as medicine shortages continue

Chair in Epidemiology at Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett (above) said eased border restrictions saw the flu begin spreading in Australia earlier than usual

Chair in Epidemiology at Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett (above) said eased border restrictions saw the flu begin spreading in Australia earlier than usual

With flu medicine running in low supply, Dr Bennett recommends people make the most of available flu vaccines and focus on their general health.     

‘The main thing is to get vaccinated for the flu, if you’re not already. It’s a good match to the current circulating strains so it works well,’ she said.

‘If you get an infection you should watch you don’t get dehydrated and take pain relief for headaches or sore muscles. 

‘If you are feeling very unwell,  seeking doctor’s advice early is important.’

Victorian President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Anthony Tassone and Woolworths have warned a sudden surge in flu cases has led to a flu and pain medicine shortage

Victorian President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Anthony Tassone and Woolworths have warned a sudden surge in flu cases has led to a flu and pain medicine shortage

Victorian President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Anthony Tassone said the sudden high demand for flu and pain medication has created a shortage in pharmacies.

‘There have been shortages for medications used for pain and fever such as paracetamol and ibuprofen – in products for children and adults,’ he said.

‘These shortages happened intermittently throughout the Covid pandemic and may be due to sudden increases in demand which supply cannot keep up with.’

Mr Tassone said he’d seen the shortage first-hand in his Victorian pharmacy where cases are 278 times higher than this time last year.

‘Pharmacy teams are trying their best to obtain stock as soon as possible and may be able to suggest an alternative,’ he said.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the supermarket giant is also experiencing a shortage of flu essentials including cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges and tissues.

The contagious ‘superflu’ began making the rounds in March but started to spread rapidly in late May with 47,860 cases recorded in just two weeks between May 23 and June 5.

Covid cases also remained high heading into 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 avoid a flu and Covid combination outbreak (pictured: shoppers in Sydney)

Sydney GP Kean Seng Lim has called for mask mandates to be reinstated to avoid a flu and Covid combination outbreak (pictured: shoppers in Sydney)

Sydney GP Kean Seng Lim recommended mask mandates be reinstated to avoid a flu and Covid combination outbreak that would put massive pressure on Australia’s already strained public health system.

‘I think we have a big problem coming,’ he told the Today Show in late May.

‘You have got the Covid and influenza viruses both coming on together.

‘We are also going to have fewer staff. It isn’t just because staff are off because they themselves are sick, but also because their kids and grandkids are sick at schools and or schools are reducing because teachers are sick… everything interconnects.’

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has recommended mask mandates be lifted from airport terminals (pictured: Sydney Airport)

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has recommended mask mandates be lifted from airport terminals (pictured: Sydney Airport)

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

Travellers will no longer be required to wear masks while inside the airport, only once they board their flight.

Health minister Mark Butler and infrastructure minister Catherine King said the AHPPC ‘anticipate the travelling public will notice this change in the days following Friday’ as states and territories make changes to their public health orders. 

‘This changed advice comes after the AHPPC has reviewed the current Covid-19 situation in Australia and considers it no longer proportionate to mandate mask wearing in the terminals.’ 

Source

Related posts