Tens of thousands of Australians are falling ill each day due to as rates of both the flu and Covid-19 skyrocket – as a medical expert reveals a disturbing pattern. 

The Department of Health and Aged Care revealed there have been more than 17,000 cases of the flu, or influenza-like illnesses, recorded between May 15 and 28.

Australia’s influenza season usually lasts between April to October, however like last year, it has started earlier in March, with 57,816 cases already recorded this year. 

Some 5,500 people are also catching Covid-19 every day according to health authorities.

The situation is made worse as two strains of influenza A, an evolution of swine flu, H1N1, and an evolution of bird flu, H3N2, run rampant.

UNSW infectious diseases epidemiology associate professor David Muscatello revealed how a disturbing new trend was playing out in Australia.

He said influenza and Covid-19 cases have been rising over the last few months, which is different to last year when flu cases increased but Covid cases dropped. 

More than 57,000 Australians have fallen ill to influenza-like-illnesses at the start of an early flu season, with more than 17,000 of which occurring in the second half of May (Stock image)

‘What’s interesting is it (influenza rates) seems to be increasing earlier in the year than it used to,’ Prof Muscatello told Daily Mail Australia.

‘In the past, we’d often seen the increase in the flu starting around July and then extending through to September. 

‘But in 2019 it really started increasing much earlier in the year, around April or even early in some parts of Australia.’

Influenza is a group of diseases that cause the flu like symptoms with the virus split split into two categories, Influenza A and influenza B. 

‘This year, we’re seeing both influenza type A and B viruses in the community,’ Prof Muscatello said.

‘The subtype of influenza A that’s around now is mainly the influenza A(H1N1) virus which is related to the swine flu virus that caused a relatively mild pandemic in 2009.’

An evolved version of swine flu has continued to be passed on around the nation in the years since, except during Covid-19 restrictions when cases dropped.

Some 75 per cent of the reported cases have been attributed to Influenza A, including subtypes H1N1 – Swine Flu – and H3N2 – bird flu.

Professor Muscatello describes influenza A as a ‘concern’ due to its ability to mix with other strains of influenza in other animals and create brand new strains, although it is rare.

‘Both influenza A and B viruses are constantly evolving, which is why we need to get vaccinated against flu every year, but influenza A evolves more quickly than influenza B,’ he said.

Two strains of influenza are spreading across the nation, influenza A(H1N1) virus, which is related to swine flu and  influenza A(H3N2) related to bird flu is also (stock image)

Two strains of influenza are spreading across the nation, influenza A(H1N1) virus, which is related to swine flu and  influenza A(H3N2) related to bird flu is also (stock image)

Two strains of influenza are spreading across the nation, influenza A(H1N1) virus, which is related to swine flu and  influenza A(H3N2) related to bird flu is also (stock image)

‘Influenza B only occurs in humans, but influenza A viruses occur in birds and animals as well.’ 

Influenza A is also nicknamed the ‘kindy flu’, not due to its severity, but because it mostly effects children up to 14 years of age.

The report from the Department of Health and Aged Care also revealed that the sudden increase in influenza-like illnesses could ‘impact society’ as more people are taking time away from work or have to be treated at a hospital.

‘While community ILI activity remains within historical ranges, the proportion of FluTracking participants reporting ILI, and the proportion reporting taking time off regular work duties while unwell, has continued to increase this fortnight,’ the report reads.

‘It is likely that the impact on society due to the 2023 influenza season is increasing.’

Of the thousands of cases, 518 have been hospital admissions, while 37 of which were directly sent to the ICU.

There have also been 57 deaths related to influenza with a median age of 76-years-old. 

Alongside the tens of thousands of Australians being hit by influenza, about 5,500 Aussies are also being infected with Covid-19 every day (stock image)

While numerous strands of ILI are spreading across the nation, it is unsure how increasing Covid-19 cases will interact with the illnesses.

Covid-19 has caused headaches for researchers as it disrupted their ability to collate information on the influenza season as less people report themselves sick.

‘It’s really hard at the moment, because of COVID. It’s really disrupted the patterns of viruses, although they do seem to be getting back to normal,’ professor Muscatello said.

Much is unknown about how Covid-19 and influenza react when in a body however there are cursory patterns.

‘Last year Covid went down when influenza took off,’ professor Muscatello said.

‘Whether they’re viruses compete with each other, is still something – as far as I know – we don’t really fully sure about.

‘We’re still learning as time goes on.’

It is also unclear if Covid-19 will become a seasonal illness like influenza, as it looks to increase yet again over colder winter temperatures, professor Muscatello said.

‘I think the important thing is that because of the combination of vaccination and natural infection in the community, the risk of getting a severe COVID outbreak is decreasing over time,’ he said.

‘That’s not to say there’s still a number of people in hospital had died from COVID, It’s still a major concern even though it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been.’ 

Professor Muscatello urged Australians to look after themselves from ILIs and Covid-19 similarly.

‘(Australians should) sanitise, wear face masks, avoid crowds, washing your hands,’ he said.

‘And above all, there is a flu vaccine as well. Which I would encourage everyone to get, and you can get it alongside your COVID vaccine.’ 

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