Covid keeps killing more people every month than flu does in a year

CHO's Covid vaccine advice

Source: Vic Health

Flu season officially began three weeks ago at the start of May.

In March, news reports warned of an “early, unpredictable” season.

Already there was a spate of sickness that kept people away from work for more than a couple of days at a time. Flu was the suspect.

In fact, in January, according to Australia’s National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, there were 9698 confirmed cases of influenza.

By the end of March there were 30,471 cases – and 76 deaths – for the first three months of 2024.

Winter is coming and it’s going to be a doozy. Hence, flu is what people are talking about as a public health issue, at least in the media.

But get this: in the first three months of 2024, there were 95,861 cases of Covid-19 in Australia – and 1062 deaths.

More Covid than flu

“In other words, there were three times as many confirmed Covid-19 cases as influenza cases,” Adrian Esterman, professor of biostatistics at the University of South Australia, told TND.

“And the death rate associated with Covid-19 was about four times as high as for influenza.”

Which means, if you’re out and about, there is much more Covid-19 virus in the community at large than the flu virus.

The situation, said Esterman, via email, “is only going to get worse as winter kicks in”.

Esterman is one of the few people who consistently talk about the risks of Covid-19 complacency.

“We hear very little from our governments about protecting ourselves,” he said.

“Further, we are currently seeing a new wave of Covid-19 cases starting in Australia driven by the new FLiRT subvariants.”

As Esterman points out, the latest data shows that only 39.9 per cent of people aged over 75 have had a booster shot since the beginning of the year.

Only 25 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 have had boosters.

“We have 310 active outbreaks of Covid-19 in aged-care homes,” he said.

“Our governments should at the very least be encouraging vulnerable people to get up to date with their booster shots, and wear face masks when necessary.”

He said it was “completely crazy that face masks are not mandatory in all health care, hospital and aged-care settings”.

Professor Robert Booy is an infectious diseases paediatrician. He also works at the University of Sydney in the fields of vaccinology, epidemiology and infectious diseases.

Speaking from Italy, Professor Booy made a point that most people wouldn’t realise: “The vaccine for Covid is even more effective than the vaccine for flu against serious disease.”

So why aren’t our most vulnerable getting boosters?

“Just complacency. Some people say ‘oh my 80-year-old mother in in very good health’,” he said.

“Well, Covid could be the difference between very good health and not being in health at all.

“The fact that there’s more Covid [cases] means there’s a heck of a lot more Covid still circulating and it’s considerably more deadly than flu.”

Good news

“In the past two years Omicron has had waves of increased cases, usually in the middle of the year and at the end of the year,” he said.

“Each wave is smaller than the previous one … but it’s still affecting more people than flu”.

So why do people pay more attention to flu?

“Flu is an occasional threat that surges in May or June,” Booy said.

“People are used to an annual surge for which they can do protective measures.”

Booy predicts that next year there’ll be an option of a “double whammy”– where people can have one injection that has both flu and Covid vaccines.

Here’s hoping for a solid uptake.

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