Covid has been our biggest concern in the last two winters when it comes to respiratory viruses. So you can feel some aspects of that worry as Australia approaches winter in 2022.
But this year is different. With the easing of public health measures and the opening of international borders, we will see an increase in flu cases. This could be higher than the expected increase in Covid.
How to protect yourself before winter.
Why can we expect increased cases of flu? The main reason behind a possible increase in flu in 2022 is the opening of Australia’s international borders.
Flu, like covid, can spread it to other people before an infected person causes symptoms, even if symptoms are not visible. Something that we regularly see in children. So once the flu comes, it will inevitably spread, whether we use masks, hand sanitizers or other measures.
For example, in the last two years, we have seen large outbreaks of other common respiratory viruses. These include respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, adenovirus and rhinovirus. We have also seen these with stricter COVID measures in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland during 2020-2021.
How bad would that be?
Will the flu be mild or more in 2022? Will we see an increase in cases during the normal June-September period, which normally peaks in August? The answers to these questions depend on history, the current situation, and a variety of speculations.
However, the current evidence argues against it. In the Northern Hemisphere, most countries with fewer outbreaks have had fewer flu cases than in pre-pandemic years.
We have also seen several countries in the Southern Hemisphere – including South Africa, Brazil and Chile – have out-of-season flu outbreaks during the summer of 2021-2022.
So this could mean that Australia’s normal influenza season could be delayed until spring or until later in 2022.
Will I have ‘Flurona’?
We can also see double infections – when someone has covid and influenza at the same time – sometimes referred to as ‘‘flurona’’ called.
Although this has happened, the rate of double infection has been low globally. Typically, less than 1% of people with COVID also get influenza at the same time. Even after a double infection, people feel just as sick as they do when they just have covid.
Using the laboratory tests now available at multiple sites, we will get a better idea of how many people will be infected with both the viruses at once. These so-called multiplex tests will detect a range of respiratory diseases, including COVID and flu, in a single test.
How do I protect myself?
Despite the uncertainties about the flu in Australia in 2022, the best way to protect yourself is to get a flu vaccine.
These include young children (especially those under the age of two), people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, people with chronic lung and heart disease, people with asthma, diabetes and the obese.
Different flu vaccines target different age groups with different formulations. These vaccines have a proven safety record and usually only cause very mild reactions, such as injection site pain, mild fever or headache. These can last for 12-24 hours and are easily treated with paracetamol or similar medications.
Flu vaccines are free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to five years, children aged 65 or over, pregnant women and those six months and older. People who are not eligible for free vaccines can still get them through their GP or through some pharmacies.
This year you will not have to go separately for your influenza and covid vaccinations. If necessary, you can have them put together at the same time.
Also read: p>