Health officials are warning this flu season is likely to be severe with the number of cases already on the rise across Queensland.
So far this year there have already been more than 800 and cases have been doubling every week for the last three weeks.
There were just 296 influenza cases in Queensland for the whole of 2021.
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Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard says with the flu being almost non-existent during the COVID pandemic, this flu season was always likely to be bad.
“This was always going to happen. The last two years have been very average insofar as we’ve had very little influenza, very low death rate over the winter months for the last two years because we’ve been protected from a virus. But that couldn’t last forever,” Dr Gerrard said.
“It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen what we’re likely to see this winter. So it may come as a shock to some people what winter is normally like.”
Dr Gerrard also warned there is a risk of people getting both the flu and COVID-19 this winter.
Queensland has already seen more than a dozen cases of people being infected with both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time.
“We are likely to see a significant wave of influenza on top of COVID-19 this winter and so I encourage everybody to get vaccinated,” Dr Gerrard said.
“There is evidence, both clinical evidence and laboratory evidence, that infection with both viruses is more severe than any one virus alone.”
There are concerns Queensland’s already struggling hospital system will not be able to cope with the increase in flu cases this winter.
Health Minister Yvette D’ath concedes planning is already underway for a winter surge.
There is no doubt this will put further pressure on our system. Mostly though I’m concerned about the individuals who are going to contract COVID and the flu at the same time. We know that that can be life-threatening,” Ms D’ath said.
“So I know a lot of people who went out last year and got the flu shot simply because they were concerned that they may get covered in flu. Well, that risk is even greater now that it is circulating so widely through the community.”