Is Australia speeding towards a twindemic?

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Highlights

  • Experts have suggested the possibility of a twindemic approaching Australia during the winter season.
  • A twindemic refers to a possibility of a severe seasonal flu occurring alongside a rise in COVID-19 infections.
  • It seems crucial for Aussies to protect themselves from catching the deadly combination of flurona.

Australia’s liaison with the pandemic-induced restrictions has lasted longer than expected. Just as Aussies began enjoying their restriction-free days in late 2021, the threat of the Omicron variant once again forced them to self-isolate. Even as the Omicron-related fears have faded now, more threats seem to be looming ahead for the country.

Some recently published reports suggest that Australia’s next pandemic related challenge might ensue in the form of a “twindemic”. The speculations have brought forth the disturbing possibility of a surge in both COVID-19 infections and influenza cases in wintertime.

The possibility has fuelled concerns surrounding the impact of a double-infection on individuals. Though there is little evidence suggesting an individual can contract both, the results could be devastating if someone were to fall in such a situation.

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What is a “twindemic”?

The twindemic is the dangerous rise in both flu cases and COVID-19 infections simultaneously. The phenomenon is generally feared during the winter season across many countries. With easing restrictions and commencement of public gatherings, Australia stands at a risk of rising infections.

While flu season may not be fearful in itself, the possibility of an increase in COVID-19 cases during that time exacerbates the health-related concerns. Both these diseases spread much in the same way and could potentially have a similar effect on the population. The flu and COVID-19 symptoms show long after an individual catches the infection.

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Flurona is the name given to the combination of both the COVID-19 virus and the flu occurring at the same time. Such a surge in COVID-19 and flu cases together has been feared in New Zealand and the US too. Amidst such concerns, medical authorities in the US have urged residents to get their flu shots on time.

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Why is the twindemic feared in Australia?

Australia has recently opened its borders to international tourists, which has led to a large influx of immigrant student population. The border reopening was crucial for the country and its economy, provided Australia was closed to foreign travellers for more than two years.

However, the sudden rise in foreign population has brought with it the threat of a potential rise in COVID-19 cases. As quarantining is no longer a mandatory requirement for travellers entering the country, the risk posed by foreign tourists has doubled.

Additionally, the threat of diseases associated with the respiratory tract has become increasingly more pronounced over the past few years. There has been a sharp uptick in respiratory viruses such as syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, adenoviruses and rhinovirus. These diseases have managed to spread in instances where any type of physical contact is involved.

The widespread usage of sanitisers and face masks have also not been able to fully curtail the spread of most respiratory viruses. Thus, avoiding public gatherings seems to be the only foolproof way of not getting infected with such diseases.

Who can get flurona?

Historical evidence suggests that there is very little possibility of individuals catching both flu and coronavirus infections at the same time. Some reports also suggest that the consequences of having both simultaneously are no worse than the consequences of having COVID alone.

Broader laboratory tests could be conducted to check for both viruses at the same time. These are called multiplex tests, which can be used to check for a range of respiratory diseases occurring at the same time. However, both the influenza virus and COVID-linked SARS-CoV-2 virus cannot combine to form a new variant.

Individuals should protect themselves from the unknown consequences of a “flurona” infection, even if concerns surrounding the disease are less. Getting yearly flu shots could help dimmish the possibility of getting infected by the flu in the upcoming winter season. It seems imperative for certain individuals that are more vulnerable to the virus to pay special attention to their health. These individuals especially include people aged 65 and over, pregnant women and people with chronic lung and heart diseases, asthma patients, diabetes, and people with obesity.

Australia has seen two years of relatively subdued flu seasons. Taking a cue from past experiences, the upcoming flu season could be brimming with infections. This is so because the natural immunity gained from getting infected has been missing for over two years now. Thus, the threat is deep this time around and requires citizens to pay special attention to their health.

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