Deadly ‘perfect storm’ of new flu and virus
Swine flu and avian flu are back and a doctor has warned of dangerous "perfect storm" if this winter's three new mutated strains collide with coronavirus in pregnant, vulnerable or elderly Australians.
Three new viral strains "influenza isolates circulating in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere" are new forms of H1N1, H3N2 and B Victoria or B Yamagata flu.
Better known as swine flu, the bird flu that developed in China's Fujian province and two different strains of influenza B, the flu strains typically hit Australia in late Autumn.
A doctor has told news.com.au that for certain members of the community contracting one of this year's flu strains along with the coronavirus could be extremely dangerous.
Australian health authorities have registered six different influenza vaccines according to different age groups for the strains.
The doctor said she had already urged pregnant women to be first in line when the vaccine is released, and that it was perfectly safe during any stage of pregnancy.
"It would be the perfect storm for some patients," the doctor said.
"You wouldn't want to be pregnant and get both. You would be very, very ill.
"Not would you want to be someone with an existing health problem, or just elderly.
"It would be significant for any person to have both, but dangerous for those people in the community.
"As soon as the vaccine is available, my advice would be go straight out and be immunised.
"It's not going to stop you getting COVID-19, but you don't want to be susceptible to both viruses."
This year's flu vaccines are likely to become available by mid-April, the NSW Health Department told news.com.au.
The Federal Health Department's Therapeutic Goods Administration is making available doses against sets of three or four of the viral strains in circulation.
The World Health Organisation recommendations "for influenza vaccines in the 2020 southern hemisphere influenza season".
NSW Health said in a statement to news.com.au it is urging "everyone who can be vaccinated to do so, ahead of the expected convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with winter flu".
"While the flu vaccine won't combat COVID-19, it will help reduce the severity and spread of flu, which can lower a person's immunity and make them susceptible to other illnesses," a NSW Health spokesperson said.
"This year's flu vaccine will be specifically tailored to the strains we expect will pose the greatest risk.".
This year, NSW Health will distribute around 2.6 million vaccines, up on 2.5m last year, the National Immunisation Program providing it free via GPs to certain groups.
Free vaccines will be available to people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with high-risk medical conditions.
"The free NSW-funded vaccine is available to all children aged six months to five years," NSW Health said.
Those aged over six months old who have with medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications will also be eligible
Amendments to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 to lower the age that pharmacists can supply and administer a private market influenza vaccine to include people aged 10 years and over, are expected to come into effect by mid-March.