Margie Danchin of the Royal Children’s Hospital said that both the flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are causing serious infections in young children.
Talking to Todayshe estimates there has been an increase of “about 20% of children needing hospital admission” since March and April.
With hospitals struggling to keep up, Danchin described a cluster of symptoms that warrant a trip to the emergency department.
“Parents are dealing with this massive influx right now… we teach them to look,” she said.
“If a child has increased work of breathing or rapid breathing, what we call difficulty breathing, or any blue around the lips, or any signs of dehydration, then if the child is not drinking, if he is listless, pale, these are the things that should encourage a parent to take their child to the ER instead of straight to the GP.
“If the child has a fever, cough, runny nose, these types of milder respiratory symptoms, then we encourage them to access community care first.”
NSW Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Michael Bonning said children under the age of five are a “priority group for immunization” as they are being afflicted with serious infections.
“We know that for babies and young children who may not have been exposed to RSV in the last two years, that first exposure can be quite serious.
“We’re seeing that with the flu as well.”
“Unprecedented” number of infections
Hospitals across the country are facing staff shortages as flu and coronavirus admissions surge.
In NSW this year, more than 1,300 people were admitted to the hospital, after nearly 9,400 presentations to emergency departments with flu-like illness.
Queensland has reported nearly 26,000 flu cases this year – four times the average for the past five years. More than 160 people are currently in public hospitals with flu and 435 with COVID-19.
“The days of going to work stoically, coughing and sneezing with a sore throat and fever because you’re a good soldier, those days are gone,” he said.
“The number of full-blown respiratory virus infections we’ve seen so far this year in Queensland has been unprecedented.”
Australians are being urged to get a flu shot while it’s still free.
Residents in all states except Tasmania were eligible for a flu shot for the month of June.
But starting next Friday, people will have to pay for an injection.
NSW Health Director Dr. Kerry Chant said that “influenza immunization rates are not where they need to be.”
“I want to remind people that the flu shot remains free for all NSW residents for another seven days, so book now to take advantage of this important initiative to boost immunity levels.”