Get ready for this winter’s respiratory virus trifecta

Ben Falkenmire

writer

Ben Falkenmire

Writer

Ben Falkenmire

 

As we approach winter with no mandatory masks or isolation laws, and COVID-19, the flu and RSV all looming—what can we do to minimise widespread infection and protect high-risk patients?

Associate Professor Paul Griffin, Director of Infectious Diseases at Mater Health and senior lecturer at the University of Queensland says the key is in the prep.

“This year is hard to predict. We know for certain that we will have all three viruses circulating again, and potentially all at once, so we need to be prepared,” Associate Professor Griffin says.

Enhanced flu vaccinations could help patients to avoid getting sick. Professor Griffin says two augmented vaccines are potentially 20-25% more effective among the elderly than the regular flu vaccine.

“Definitely use the augmented vaccines for the elderly, and it doesn’t matter which augmented vaccine they get,” he says.

“There is also a cell-based vaccine that isn’t grown in eggs, which some patients may like the sound of, but it’s not currently subsidised so there is a cost differential to consider.”

ATAGI recently recommended an additional COVID-19 vaccine booster for the elderly and those with comorbidities, with bivalent mRNA vaccines the preferred choice.

Pink background with syringe collecting fluid from test container vaccine image

Associate Professor Griffin advises GPs to have a low threshold for testing for all three viruses, particularly in high risk patients and those who could benefit from antiviral medications.

“Test with a multiplex panel for the flu, COVID-19, RSV and other viruses, like parainfluenza, so you can give patients timely access to antivirals and advice on how to manage their case and to control spreading it to others,” he says.

Growing misinformation among patients around COVID-19 and the flu is another factor GPs are expected to face in consults this winter.

Associate Professor Griffin says some patients may need reminding about the effectiveness of vaccines, to stay at home if unwell, and for high risk people, the benefits of wearing masks in public and having an antiviral plan in place.

“Given that we want high rates of uptake of both the COVID and flu vaccines, we need people to understand the viruses are a risk,” he says.

For more from Associate Professor Paul Griffin on what we’re up against this winter, and what can be done at the primary care level to mitigate the risks, sign up for Healthed’s FREE webcast this Tuesday, 21 February. Register here to attend.

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Ben Falkenmire

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Ben Falkenmire

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