Bleak warning for Aussie state ahead of Christmas

Queensland authorities are warning about an 'unusual' spike in Covid, influenza and mycoplasma pneumonia, with the latter tripling since November.

Australians in one state have been issued a bleak Christmas warning after health officials were caught off guard by an "unusual" spike in respiratory illness.

Queenslanders are being urged to practice good hygiene habits this festive season and take care around elderly family members if they have any symptoms. The unusual warning came from health authorities on Thursday as an unseasonal spike in respiratory illnesses spreads throughout the state – and a big part of it is down to a worrying Covid resurgence.

Across Queensland there are 322 people hospitalised with Covid-19 – four times the number treated in October. Meanwhile, another 66 people are in hospital with influenza.

Just last week, 2,162 cases of Covid and 836 cases of influenza were recorded.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said it was an unusual state of affairs for December.

"I'm not here to say stop Christmas," he said, but warned people in the state to be mindful and take precautions to stop the spread of any respiratory diseases. "All I'm saying is if you are sick, try and avoid your elderly and vulnerable relatives and friends.

Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard says he doesn't want to be a grinch but wanted the state to take precautions. Source: AAP
Chief Health Officer Dr John Gerrard says he doesn't want to be a grinch but wanted the state to take precautions. Source: AAP

"Older adults and young children are especially vulnerable to respiratory infections, so it’s important we protect our loved ones this festive season by staying home when we are sick," he said.

Overall, there has been more than 73,000 influenza cases recorded this year, far exceeding the 2022 total of 44,431.

"While influenza hospitalisations remain far below their winter peak (more than 400), their summer rise is still unusual," Dr Gerrard added.

Surge in pneumonia 'tip of the iceberg'

Dr Gerrard said there had also been a surge in mycoplasma pneumonia, a bacterial infection most commonly occurring in children, with laboratory reports of the illness tripling since November.

"We certainly have not seen significant numbers (of mycoplasma) since before the pandemic," he said.

Mycoplasma infections are usually mild but some children may develop severe complications including brain inflammation or mucositis affecting the eyes, mouth and skin.

"These are rare complications," Dr Gerrard said. "What we're seeing in hospital is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as to what's actually out there in the community."

The surge in cases has been put down to a flurry of interstate and international travel as well as reduced immunity in the community after Covid restrictions. It comes as authorities monitor new Covid variant JN.1 which first arrived in Australia in mid-October but has contributed to the rise in cases in recent weeks.

Santa at australian airport
A flurry of interstate and international travel is thought to be behind the rising respiratory cases. Source: Getty

with AAP

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