'ANOTHER WAVE': Top doctor's 'Flurona' warning for the months ahead

·2-min read

Australia is set to face in coming months the dual threat of a fresh Omicron wave and the first major surge of flu cases since the pandemic began.

That's the assessment of the country's chief medical officer Paul Kelly, who said winter would bring fresh challenges to Australia's Covid-19 response.

While Omicron cases have begun to plateau in several jurisdictions, Professor Kelly on Wednesday told a Covid-19 committee hearing that new outbreaks were likely to hit during the colder months.

"There will be another wave of Omicron, most likely in the winter," he said.

"Every June since 2020 there has been a wave of Covid in Australia and other southern hemisphere countries."

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly say Omicron will likely surge again in winter. Source: AAP
Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly say Omicron will likely surge again in winter. Source: AAP

The spectre of 'Flurona'

Professor Kelly said the coming winter would also bring with it the additional risk of rising flu cases, rising the spectre that people could become infected with both viruses at the same time – a phenomenon dubbed as "Flurona".

Instances of the flu have largely fallen in Australia since 2020 in the wake of the pandemic, following lockdown measures being enacted during traditional flu seasons in populous states.

However, the chief medical officer said a spike in the flu should be anticipated in 2022.

"There was not a winter surge of the flu last year, and flu in the northern hemisphere is still less than usual, but the flu has not disappeared from the world," Prof Kelly said.

"With two years of no flu, we will probably have (a flu season) and we are prepared for all eventualities."

Prof Kelly said the rollout of flu vaccines would run alongside the rollout of the Covid-19 booster shots in coming months.

The latest figures have revealed almost 8.2 million people have received their Covid-19 booster shot, or about two-thirds of those who are eligible.

However, Wednesday's Covid-19 Senate hearing was told just 66 per cent of fully vaccinated aged care residents had received their booster dose.

It comes despite vaccination teams visiting 99 per cent of all aged care facilities to offer the booster.

With lockdowns gone, the flu is expected to make a comeback. Source: AAP
With lockdowns gone, the flu is expected to make a comeback. Source: AAP

The head of the country's vaccine rollout, Lieutenant-General John Frewen, said teams would be conducting second visits of facilities to vaccinate more aged care residents.

Meanwhile, the medical regulator has issued new guidelines for people conducting rapid antigen tests.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has advised people not to eat, drink, smoke or chew gum for 10 to 30 minutes before they undergo rapid tests, in order to avoid the possibility of a false result.

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