Australia hit with 'perfect storm' of four killer viruses

·News Reporter
·3-min read

As temperatures plummet across the country, and Covid continues to plague Aussie schools and hospitals, a ‘perfect storm’ is brewing of four simultaneous killer virus outbreaks.

After two years of the pandemic, with multiple lockdowns and increased hygiene measures, flu cases are soaring, as well as incidences of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and metapneumovirus.

It’s a situation many medical experts predicted.

“When we take off our mask, we have more contact, we have international travel, what are we going to see?” Dr Rod Pearce, Chairman of the Immunisation Coalition, asked while speaking to Yahoo News Australia.

Doctors are calling for a nation wide testing programme for dozens of infections. Source: Getty
Doctors are calling for a nation wide testing programme for dozens of infections. Source: Getty

Testing could save thousands of lives

The Immunisation Coalition is calling for an immediate nationwide testing program to address the health of Australians while easing pressure on hospital systems.

It insists this could be done through current Covid testing centres, whereby PCR swabs are also checked for dozens of different infections.

NSW has already set the pace and has been simultaneously testing for Covid, the flu, RSV and whooping cough since the start of the winter season.

Dr Pearce says a wider range of testing would enable health professionals to treat what is going around rather than just guessing what is circulating.

“If you’re testing for Covid, you should be testing for something else as well, because it changes the clinical outcome,” he said.

Medical experts say testing for dozens of viruses could save lives and reduce pressure on hospitals. Source: Getty
Medical experts say testing for dozens of viruses could save lives and reduce pressure on hospitals. Source: Getty

“Covid can be treated with antivirals, influenza can be treated with antivirals, whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics.

“There are viruses we can treat, so finding out early and starting treatment could actually alter the clinical outcome.”

By correctly diagnosing patients and starting them on treatment earlier, Dr Pearce says thousands of lives could be saved this winter.

“Starting antivirals is about starting early, and we know they’re more effective the earlier you start,” he said.

“If we start treatment early, then the severity of influenza would be incredibly reduced, whereas if we don’t vaccinate or we don’t treat, we end up with life threatening [situations] or increased risk of heart attacks or exacerbation of pre existing illness.

Figures reveal a sharp increase in the number of notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza over the last five years. Source: NNDSS
Figures reveal a sharp increase in the number of notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza over the last five years. Source: NNDSS

“If we had a 30 to 50 per cent reduction in the severity of influenza, then it becomes an out-of-hospital management and the influenza is less severe and the consequences of the thousands of people we see die from flu is less.”

An added benefit to the tests that Dr Pearce describes as a ‘life saving measure’ is that Australia will be better prepared for next year’s flu season.

“The final benefit of knowing what’s circulating is that we can actually make better vaccines because we can actually target what’s around,” he said.

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