Prepare for one of the worst flu seasons yet

Experts raise concerns over flu season

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GET VACCINATED: Priceline pharmacist Omar Awan said the flu vaccine is just as important as the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Peter Hardin

GET VACCINATED: Priceline pharmacist Omar Awan said the flu vaccine is just as important as the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Peter Hardin

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Australians warned to prepare for one of the worst flu seasons yet, as COVID-19 restrictions allow more movement.

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IT'S shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons yet, as cooler weather descends across the country.

Experts are warning that we could see a spike in flu infections after spending the last two years living with COVID-19 restrictions.

Director of University of Newcastle's Department of Rural Health, Dr Jennifer May, said with more people staying at home they were less likely to be exposed to the flu germ.

"I think that this year, coming on the back of two years of virtually no flu, the concern is that flu may be a serious illness for many people this year," Dr May said.

"When we have a regular amount of flu circulating in our population many of us get some subclinical dose and exposure to flu over time.

"But we know that many of us have not had the flu or seen a flu germ in the last two years."

With the latest variant of COVID-19, BA.2 starting to sweep through communities, Dr May said it was crucial to take "common sense" measures to avoid overrunning the hospital system.

"We need to do our level best to keep the burden of illness low, that's the burden of illness on individuals as well as the burden on our system," she said

"Stay at home when you're sick, wear a mask when you're very close to someone for a prolonged period and washing your hands will reduce the overall transmissibility of flu and COVID."

But the most important thing she said you can do, is get the flu vaccine.

There is now no waiting period between receiving a COVID-19 booster shot and a flu vaccine, which Dr May said would help with the uptake.

"I think patients are now very knowledgeable about vaccines and I think that's a real positive," she said.

"I'm confident that with a risk-benefit approach, that many people will choose to get vaccinated for both flu and COVID this year."

Priceline pharmacist Omar Awan said this year pharmacies would now be able to vaccinate people above the age of 65 for the flu, which previously could only be administered at a GP clinic.

"A lot more people will now have access to the pharmacies if they want to get it done," Mr Awan said.

Vaccines for people aged over 65 will be supplied by the federal government and are expected to arrive in store in mid April, with vaccines for those aged 10-65 already available.

While COVID-19 has been the focus of vaccinations over the last two years, Mr Awan said in Australia past data showed there had been a lot more deaths due to the flu than COVID-19, particularly in the older populations.

"[Flu vaccines] are still very important."

With COVID-19 and the flu producing similar symptoms, Mr Awan said the loss of taste and smell was usually only associated with COVID-19, but to be sure patients are advised to take a RAT or PCR test.

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