If you’re not already ill, you’re going to be soon. New modelling suggests that the country is about to be slammed with COVID cases, with over 5000 hospital admissions for the virus expected each week.
Health experts have warned that the country faces between 10,000 and 15,000 deaths from the virus this year alone if more is not done to stem the spread of the disease. Australia only surpassed the 10,000 deaths from COVID mark last week since the start of the pandemic.
Things are ramping up on other fronts as well as influenza and common cold viruses come for our immune systems. The cold weather and the rain have added to this attack on all sides on Aussie health and wellbeing.
This is our first winter following the easing of pandemic restrictions and similar scenes were playing out in Europe at the end of last year as restrictions lifted while winter moved in. While it’s not entirely unexpected, it is worrying health officials.
Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr John Gerrar, has said that the country’s third wave is now “well established” and expected to increase over the coming weeks. He expects the state to have to manage 1000 hospitalisations in July alone. Currently, Queensland is also dealing with hospital staff shortages as at least 2,000 staff are off due to illness.
Robert Booy, infectious diseases expert at the University of Sydney has said that lockdowns have been a little too effective. While they’ve stopped the spread of COVID, they also stopped the spread of everything else, including colds and other common illnesses. Our collective lack of natural immunity to those diseases is causing them to now spread faster and hit harder after two years of absence.
“We’re facing a multidemic of respiratory viruses, there’s three or four of them causing trouble … Influenza, RSB, para-influenza, adenovirus, HMPV, there are a lot,” Booy told The Courier Mail.
“Winter naturally leads to perspiration, indoor crowding and lack of adequate ventilation. Because were locked down for two years, the level of natural immunity dropped off against flu and Covid, so we happen to have a lot of cases and deaths due to Omicron and the opening of a society with less natural immunity,” he said.
Given we’ve been locked down for so long, our rapid return to social life and indoor spaces has meant we’re now spreading these common diseases at an accelerated rate. This explains why half your work is probably off sick, or soon will be.
“With the relaxation of borders six months ago, we’re all shaking hands and hugging,” Booy told The Daily Telegraph.”
“A handful of viruses are spreading far and wide, partly from social contact but also the level of immunity from young children is low because of COVID.
“Children who otherwise would have been exposed to these viruses at 12 months are now being exposed at age three or four – an age when they’re not very good at social etiquette and precautions.”
What Is a Multidemic?
Booy appears to have coined a phrase in his use of the word ‘multidemic’. There’s no official etymology here, but we’re going to take a stab and say that he means we’re facing an epidemic of multiple different viruses.
The viruses causing particular issue include, of course, COVID, but also the common cold, caused by rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, and influenza.
Most of these are fairly harmless, however, they can be dangerous to young children who have never experienced them before as well as older adults and more vulnerable people. Influenza and RSV in particular are nothing to sniff at and medical advice should be sought if symptoms persist or worsen after a few days.
How Can We Protect Ourselves From the Multidemic?
Health authorities in the ACT have warned that daily COVID case numbers could triple before peaking in late July or early August.
On Monday, the country recorded 40,000 new COVID cases and 50 deaths. Influenza is also on the rise, with close to 190,000 confirmed cases this year, up from virtually zero this time last year. 113 people have died from complications with the flu in the past six months, according to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
Keeping safe means taking all of the usual precautions. Dr Paul Kelly, Federal Cheif Health Officer, has said we all need to be taking greater responsibility for the spread of disease.
“Wear a mask if you’re indoors, if you are eligible for treatments, go find out about that from your General Practitioner now because that will decrease your chance of having severe disease,” he said on Tuesday.
If you’re not across your vaccinations either, getting these is going to help. Authorities have long encouraged everyone to get their third dose of the COVID vaccine and have recently opened up eligibility for fourth doses to a further 7.6 million Australians.