Grim detail in photo highlights emergent virus threat to Australia

"I thought I was going to die."

That's the poignant warning from one Melbourne woman who has taken to the internet with a now-viral post to warn others of the debilitating effects of influenza.

The 23-year-old said she passed on her flu vaccination this year, pleading for others not to do the same as cases rapidly increase across the country, occurring earlier than the average pre-Covid year.

She said she'd been hospitalised for four days and shared a grim photo of her sweat-soaked sheets at home before her admission to the emergency department.

"I got complacent, forgetting how quickly a simple flu can turn serious," she explained on Reddit.

A Melbourne woman's bed showing the sweat from her flu bout. Source: Reddit
One woman in Melbourne says her bed was soaked in sweat as she was hit hard by flu. Source: Reddit

Expert warns vaccination is key

Dr Tin Fei Sim, Senior Lecturer at Curtin Medical School and President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, told Yahoo News Australia now was not the time to be dismissive of the flu.

"There is a misconception out there that influenza is just like any other cold, or it's not as severe as Covid-19," she said.

"The message here should be loud and clear. Every single Australian should consider getting the influenza vaccine as soon as possible.

"It can be very severe, can lead to short and long term complications, hospitalisations and some cases death."

Describing her experience, the Reddit poster said she "had never felt so sick" her entire life.

"And this is as someone who is young, healthy and has no pre-existing medical conditions," she said.

Like Dr Fei Sim, her message was clear. "Get the flu shot," she pleaded.

A woman on a coach blowing her nose as medical experts warn of a bad flu season in 2022. Source: Getty, file.
Medical experts are fearing a devastating flu season. Source: Getty, file.

Covid vaccine does not stop the flu

Dr Fei Sim said after a period of few cases thanks to Covid pandemic measures, the country was primed for a devastating flu season, with a large spike of cases already occurring and the trajectory set to continue.

"What is very concerning at the minute is we live in a Covid-19 world that we have to deal with. This compounded with a surge in flu cases is going to put a lot of stress and strain on our healthcare system."

Australia's acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sonya Bennett, noted on Friday she had identified a slower uptake of flu vaccines. Dr Fei Sim said a contributing factor could be the misconception the Covid-19 vaccine also works for the flu.

"That's a myth, that's simply not true," she stressed.

On Monday, NSW announced free flu vaccines for the public, with Victoria expected to make a similar announcement this week. Queensland had already offered free flu vaccines until June 30. The Western Australian and South Australian governments are also offering free flu jabs in June.

“We strongly urge everyone over six months of age to get a flu shot as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones, as the virus is easily spread and potentially deadly,” NSW's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

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