Coronavirus must be kept under control or it could make flu season even more deadly, an expert has warned.
There have already been 15 cases of coronavirus in Australia since the lethal virus was discovered in China in December – and doctors fear the number will grow.
Professor Philip Booy, a senior fellow at the Immunisation Coalition, has warned the disease could become more widespread during flu season.
‘Coronavirus and flu are both dangerous on their own, but we could have two viruses spreading at once,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We have to keep coronavirus under control because it can lead to respiratory infections. So far we have done that but we need to keep it up.’
Medical personnel scan a new coronavirus patient at a hospital in Wuhan, China on Sunday
Viruses spread faster and more widely in winter because the air is less humid and people spend more time in close contact indoors.
The death rate for coronavirus is estimated to be around 2 per cent while the figure for flu is about 0.5 per cent, according to data from the US.
In 2019 Australia suffered an unusually severe flu season with more than 310,000 patients, peaking in July when 70,000 lab-confirmed cases were recorded in a single month.
Professor Booy said this means that 2020 should be a relatively quiet year – but said ‘we can never be sure’.
‘Both last year and three years ago we had very big flu seasons. Because of last year being such a big season, many people have built up immunity.
‘So my best guess is that we are in for a quiet to moderate season.’
Professor Booy, who trained as a pediatrician in Queensland before becoming a leading disease expert, said Australia should focus efforts on containing the coronavirus.
‘The travel ban has been important and now we are trying to develop a vaccine,’ he said.
This graph shows the number of cases of flu in the past few years. The purple line shows 2017 with its peak in August and the orange line shows 2019 with its peak in July
This photo taken on February 14, shows a woman wearing a face mask walking past a charms shop in the Binondo district of Chinatown in Manila
On Tuesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government will contribute $2million to help find a vaccine for the coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
Meanwhile, about 200 Australians on a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan have been given the option to be evacuated to an unused workers site near Darwin on Wednesday.
The ship – which has had more than 450 cases confirmed, including at least 16 Australians – has been quarantined at the port of Yokohama for more than two weeks.
But due to the number of recent cases on the ship, they would have to undergo another two-week quarantine period at the Howard Springs facility.
Mr Morrison sympathised with the Australians stuck on the ship, saying he understood they would be frustrated at the thought of another two weeks in quarantine.
‘It’s unfortunate but it is absolutely necessary to ensure that we put the measures in place that have been so effective in containing the spread of this virus,’ he said.
The Australians on board must pass a coronavirus test before they can be brought home, and elderly people will be given priority in the evacuation.
Wednesday’s flight will also include New Zealanders, who will be transferred home after landing in Darwin.
There have been 15 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with eight people now recovered and the rest in a stable condition.
There are now more than 71,000 cases worldwide, with 1776 reported deaths.
AUSTRALIANS WITH THE CORONAVIRUS
NEW SOUTH WALES: 4
- Three men aged 43, 53, and 35 who had recently travelled to China are confirmed to have contracted the disease.
- Two flew in from Wuhan while the other arrived in Sydney from Shenzhen, south China.
- They are being treated in isolation at Westmead Hospital and are in stable condition.
- A 21-year-old woman is identified as the fourth person to test positive for the illness in NSW.
- The woman, a student at UNSW, flew into Sydney International Airport on flight MU749 on January 23 and presented to the emergency department 24 hours later after developing flu-like symptoms.
- She is being treated in isolation at Westmead Hospital.
- A Chinese national aged in his 50s becomes the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Australia.
- The man flew to Melbourne on China Southern flight CZ321 from Wuhan via Guangzhou on January 19.
- He is now in quarantined isolation at Monash Hospital in Clayton in Melbourne’s east.
- A Victorian man in his 60s is diagnosed with the coronavirus.
- He became unwell on January 23 – two days after returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
- The man was confirmed as positive on January 29 and was subsequently seen by doctors at the Monash Medical Centre. He was assessed as being well enough to stay at home.
- A woman in her 40s is found to have coronavirus.
- She was visiting from China and mostly spent time with her family.
- She is being treated at Royal Melbourne Hospital.
- A woman in her 20s in Melbourne is found to have the virus
- Queensland confirms its first case after a 44-year-old Chinese national wass diagnosed with the virus.
- He is being treated at Gold Coast University Hospital.
- A 42-year-old Chinese woman who was travelling in the same Wuhan tour group as the 44-year-old man tests positive. She is in Gold Coast University Hospital in stable condition.
- An eight-year-old boy has been diagnosed coronavirus. He is also from the tour group where the other Queensland cases came from
- The case was found in a 37-year-old man, who was a member of a group of nine Chinese tourists in quarantine on the Gold Coast
- A 37-year-old woman has been diagnosed with coronavirus from the same travel group that flew to Queensland from Melbourne on January 27
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: 2
- A Chinese couple in their 60s who arrived in Adelaide from Wuhan to visit relatives are confirmed to have coronavirus.
- Two Australians have been confirmed as having the virus in Wuhan itself. Australia has raised the travel alert level to ‘do not travel’ for the city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – and for the entire Hubei province.
- Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says unless people have contact with someone who is unwell and has come from that part of China, there is no need for current concern.
- As of February 15, 15 Australians are among 219 confirmed cases of the coronavirus contracted on board Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama.
Source: dailymail UK