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Infections may have passed their peak but there could be a second peak to follow

Barr mentioned Victoria’s flu season was “undoubtedly previous the height, the one query now’s whether or not we are going to see a rebound or it peters out for the remainder of the season”.

“Lots of the states are coming back from faculty holidays now so the subsequent few weeks will inform us if we are going to see a return, or we’re completed for the season.”

There have been 34,582 circumstances of influenza up to now this yr in Victoria. This compares with the previous two years when influenza circumstances fell to as little as about 100 in 2021 and 4700 in 2020, as a result of COVID-19 border closures and lockdown measures all however eliminating the flu over the two-year interval.

This fuelled expectations of a foul flu season this yr because of the waning immunity ranges in the neighborhood. However the variety of flu-related hospital admissions and deaths across the nation up to now is fewer than in 2017 and 2019 – two monster years for the flu.

The yr 2017 holds the report for the best variety of flu-related deaths, with 1100 reported throughout the nation. In 2019, there have been 900 deaths. Up to now this yr, there have been 181.

Professor Ian Barr warns it’s too early to rule out the possibility of a second flu wave hitting the state.

Professor Ian Barr warns it’s too early to rule out the potential for a second flu wave hitting the state.Credit score:Chris Hopkins

The flu season additionally occurred sooner than standard this yr. The season usually begins in June and peaks in August, and typically as late as September, however this yr began in April, peaked in Might and June, and is now really fizzling out.

Barr mentioned behavioural adjustments like mask-wearing and isolating indoors to keep away from catching COVID-19 might have additionally protected individuals from catching the flu.

Getting contaminated with COVID-19 may very well decrease somebody’s probability of catching the flu, Barr mentioned. This idea, referred to as virus interference, is when “one virus pushes out the opposite virus or doesn’t let the opposite virus get in”.

“Your physique reacts to the virus, so a few of the response to COVID-19 makes it harder for different viruses to contaminate you.

“It’s most likely not so pronounced in children as a result of they get a number of infections without delay, however is an actual impact, although it is just short-lived; it solely lasts for various weeks.”

The Australian Faculty of Emergency Drugs’s Victorian performing chair, Dr Belinda Hibble, mentioned hospitals noticed an influenza peak in Might and June, when individuals introduced with fever, cough and respiratory signs to emergency departments and have been identified with the flu. However the flu has now been overtaken by RSV in hospital emergency wards, she mentioned.

“The RSV peak has come now and overtaken influenza. We’ve seen that influenza outbreak settle,” Hibble mentioned.

“Influenza is commonly a extra extreme sickness than RSV, however RSV was hitting individuals in increased numbers which is inflicting increased displays at hospitals.”

The onslaught of climbing COVID-19 admissions has put an unprecedented pressure on hospitals in the course of the busiest time of the yr in winter, when flu and RSV infections are usually excessive.

Hibble mentioned a second wave of the flu would push emergency departments to the brink.

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“Emergency departments are already dangerously overloaded so any improve in demand – by a second wave of flu, or the rest – would make a troublesome state of affairs even worse.”

A Well being Division spokesman mentioned the state’s excessive vaccination ranges have been “serving to to scale back the variety of flu infections which is why we proceed to encourage Victorians to remain updated with each their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations.”

In Victoria, 42 per cent of individuals have been vaccinated towards the flu, with 40 per cent of all Australians getting the jab.

“Whereas this yr’s flu season has been early, quick and sharp, we will’t be complacent as we will anticipate extra circumstances later this yr, when holidaymakers return from journeys to the Northern Hemisphere,” the spokesman mentioned.

“We additionally want individuals to proceed staying at dwelling after they’re unwell, use air purifiers if doable and both keep away from or put on a masks in crowded indoor locations.”

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