The old saying: ‘When America sneezes, Britain catches a cold’ is usually couched in terms of political, economic or cultural developments. But when it comes to actual respiratory illnesses, Australia can be of much greater importance.
Because, unlike America, Australia experiences summer and winter at different times of year to Britain, the cycle of seasonal illnesses is inverted. As Britain slips into Autumn and spring dawns down under, warnings of what a Antipodean severe flu season could mean now Covid restrictions on global travel have ended have been sounded across the Northern Hemisphere.
For example, Surrey Live has reported that staff at Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust have been urged to get their flu jabs by Jacqueline Totterdell, the group chief executive of the St George’s and Epsom and St Helier hospitals group.
Ms Totterdell, who said she nearly died from a severe flu infection a couple of years ago, commented: “We always look towards Australia for what sort of flu season they’ve had, and they’ve had a pretty terrible one.”
If both Covid and flu are bad this winter, this could make touch screens and keypads more hazardous to the medically vulnerable, providing another reason to wear a silicone finger protector when using one.
The concerns expressed in Surrey have been repeated everywhere amid the twin concerns of a bad Australian flu season and an increased risk among people largely unexposed to flu over the last two winters due to Covid restrictions.
Signs of this have already been identified in South Korea, while in the US, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Bloomberg News the flu season in Australia and New Zealand, the worst in five years, had been “pretty bad” and “came on early”.
All this shows why people should get their flu jabs and Covid boosters. But it’s also a good reason to take precautions against exposure to infection in the first place.