Flu season this year could be extremely dangerous for children and babies

Why this year’s flu season could be extremely dangerous for children and babies with warnings hospitals could be swamped with kids

  • Australian medical professionals are preparing for a return of the flu this season
  • Influenza had been subdued by coronavirus restrictions in the last two years
  • The flu was the leading cause for child hospitalizations before the pandemic

Australia had all but eliminated the flu during the last two years of the pandemic, but experts warn it could be back with a vengeance as the nation returns to normal life.

Last year the country had just 484 cases of influenza to the end of August with no deaths, compared to some 313,000 cases in 2019 leading to 953 deaths.

Even allowing for 2019 being an exceptionally bad year for the flu, with case numbers 27 times higher than the five year average, the turnaround is dramatic.

However experts are warning Australia to be prepared for an end to the flu hiatus with domestic and international borders flinging open and lockdowns now a thing of the past.

Once in a flu moon: Last year Australia had just 484 cases of influenza to the end of August with no deaths caused by the flu in an unusually tame season

Prior to the pandemic, influenza was the leading cause of hospitalization for children under five

A Melbourne pediatrician says Australian hospitals will be bracing for increased numbers of infected children this year.

‘Prior to the pandemic, influenza was the leading cause of hospitalization in children under five,’ Dr Margie Danchin told the Sydney Morning Herald

‘The return of influenza this year is absolutely going to pose a risk to children, particularly very young children, whose immune systems are naïve to the flu because they have never experienced it before.’

Influenza researcher at the WHO Professor Ian Barr said it is unavoidable flu will return this year.

‘With increased travel and more porous borders, and lack of quarantine, and no testing for influenza at border sites, then it’s inevitable it’ll get back in this year,’ Professor Barr said speaking to NewsGP

Though he doesn’t expect dramatic numbers like those seen in 2019, he warns it isn’t impossible.

‘We might have a moderate season, but it’s probably unlikely we’re going to have a big season unless something dramatic happens overseas and we get exposed to those viruses.’ he said.

And while hospitals and pediatricians will be preparing for inbound influenza cases, some experts are concerned that people are tired of vaccines after the coronavirus inoculation drive.

With increased travel and no lockdowns, experts say a rise in influenza cases is inevitable

With increased travel and no lockdowns, experts say a rise in influenza cases is inevitable

One concern for this year's flu season is vaccine fatigue, which could lead to many skipping out on the lifesaving flu shot

One concern for this year’s flu season is vaccine fatigue, which could lead to many skipping out on the lifesaving flu shot

They fear this could mean a decreased number taking the opportunity to protect themselves with a flu shot this year.

‘There will still be an issue, convincing people, especially young people and people with children to get their kids vaccinated again for something else,’ Professor Barr said.

University of Queensland virologist Dr Kirsty Short hoped the sparse number of cases last year will mean there will be less chance for the flu virus to mutate into a new variant which will be resistant to current flu vaccines.

But she warned of complacency and the danger of a major flu outbreak on top of the Covid pandemic.

‘It’s definitely something we all need to be watching,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

‘Because the last thing we want is to have a bad flu season after going through everything with Covid.’

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