As winter unfolds, planning and awareness are crucial to mitigating and preparing for infectious disease outbreaks of any kind. Infectious disease epidemiologist Mr. Chris Maher AO advises on what is really happening with COVID-19, Influenza, ‘Flurona’ and Monkeypox, and what the best course of action is for the health and continuity of you, your company or organisation, and your community.
We should brace ourselves for 3 months of intense influenza activity. There are reports of 90,000 cases of influenza Australia-wide this season, with 47,000 cases in the last fortnight.
This is considerably more than our most recent peak of flu in 2019 and is rising much more rapidly than in previous years. Cases are mostly being reported among younger demographics, with the majority of cases being reported in kids between 5 and 9 years of age. This is unusual, compared to recent years in which the flu has largely impacted older demographics. The potential for greater spread and carry is therefore concerning.
We still have 220,000 cases of COVID-19 in Australia. The main proportion of virus variants in the community are Omicron sub-variants; BA.4, BA.5, and BA.2.12.1. These variants will replace BA.2, which is the current dominant sub-variant. BA.2.12.1 in particular is showing a competitive advantage in terms of transmission and is growing quickly.
Of particular concern are reinfection rates; we are seeing more and more client staff members and people in the community contracting COVID-19 for the second time. Full vaccination is the best form of protection (paired with infection is an added bonus). Remaining vigilant on vaccination is not only important for personal health, but for ensuring that staff redundancy does not take its toll on companies and organisations through the winter.
While the risk of COVID-19 and influenza co-infection, ‘flurona’, has generated alarm in recent months, there has been no report of such cases to be cause for high concern. Similarly, Monkeypox is sitting at around 1,000 cases globally and is predominantly presenting as a skin-to-skin spreader, associated with sexual transmission, or activities of high skin-to-skin contact between individuals.
It’s not too late to get your flu shot, COVID-19 booster, or to seek support on vaccinating your staff or community. Ensure that you stay up to date on the latest flu and COVID-19 advice. As the past few years have taught us, early planning and preparation will put organisations, companies, and communities in the best place to safely and successfully respond to future infectious disease outbreaks.