Out-of-season flu outbreaks likely due to open borders
Australia could expect an out-of-season outbreak of influenza this year as a result of open border policies, after having almost two years without community transmission of the disease.
In an editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia, clinicians and researchers are urging Australians to take precautions against a potential outbreak, including safe hygiene practices and getting the influenza vaccine.
Dr Sheena Sullivan, from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, said that the border lockdowns saw influenza notifications “plummet” in Australia.
“Introduction of new viruses was prevented by the closure of the Australian border and the requirement that all returning travellers undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine,” Dr Sullivan said.
“It would seem that the virus has been locally eliminated, but the threat of its re-introduction looms with the re-opening of our border.”
Her laboratory has confirmed the presence of the influenza virus in samples from international travellers.
“[Once] quarantine periods are reduced or eliminated, infected travellers may enter the community and instigate local outbreaks,” Dr Sullivan commented.
The circulation of the influenza virus, on top of the current surge of COVID-19 infections, is expected to add extra strain upon the already heavily-burdened health system.