Victoria faces triple threat: Flu, COVID, & RSV surge strains hospitals

By Our Reporter
Representative image // Photo by Synatix on Unsplash

Victoria is grappling with an infectious “soup” of influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), resulting in increased hospitalisations and sick days across the state, reports said.

According to the latest data from the Victorian Health Department, COVID-19 hospitalisations have surged by 37% this week, with about 300 people currently being treated in hospitals. Influenza cases have jumped by 75% over the past fortnight, totaling more than 9,185 cases so far this year—an increase of 1,532 from last year. Additionally, RSV cases have risen significantly, with 9,386 cases recorded this year compared to 5,714 last year.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Clare Looker told The Age, “It will have placed a strain across the [health] system, both in terms of the increase in case numbers and also impacts on staff. Everyone who has kids at school or childcare would know there’s lots more people off sick at the moment.”

Looker expects cases to continue rising as colder weather drives people indoors and has urged Victorians to get vaccinated, noting that vaccination rates are lower than in previous years. Data from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance indicates that only 10.5% of Victorian children aged six months to five years are vaccinated against the flu, while 40.9% of those over 65 are vaccinated.

Vaccination is recommended for all Australians over six months old, with strong recommendations for young children, the elderly, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and individuals with certain medical conditions.

Ebony Mellor recounted a harrowing experience to The Age, when her five-year-old son Xavier suddenly began having seizures and vomiting. Xavier’s condition escalated rapidly, culminating in multiple seizures and a rush to Austin Hospital, where he was diagnosed with influenza A. The Mellors, shaken by the experience, are now urging families to vaccinate their children.

Austin Hospital’s emergency department director, Dr. Michael Ben-Meir, reported a spike in flu admissions, including seriously ill children. While most children recover within a week, about 10% end up in the hospital with complications such as seizures and breathing difficulties.

Monash Medical Centre and Monash Children’s Hospital have also seen increases in RSV and COVID-19 admissions. Professor Rhonda Stuart, director of public health and infection prevention at Monash Health, attributed the rise in infections to a combination of travel, immunity, and people being indoors.

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