Warning to older Aussies as ‘triple-threat’ flu, Covid, RSV wave hits NSW

A “triple threat” of rising flu, Covid and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases across NSW has prompted health authorities to call on people over 65 to get free flu vaccinations.

The NSW Health Respiratory Surveillance Report released on Thursday showed a 27 percent increase in flu reports and a 23 percent increase in Covid-19 reports compared to the previous week.

However, New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said vaccination rates were not yet where they needed to be, despite rapidly rising flu transmissions and the expected “rapid increase” in cases over the next few weeks.

“In NSW, less than half of people over 65 have received their flu vaccination this year and we absolutely need to increase that number, especially as people in this age group are most at risk of severe illness,” Dr Chant said.

“We expect the number of flu cases to increase rapidly in the coming weeks, so now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.”

New South Wales Health Minister Ryan Park reiterated his call for vulnerable Australians to get vaccinated.

“We are experiencing a triple threat of flu, Covid and RSV cases that are widespread in the population,” he said.

“I would like to once again urge the population to keep their vaccinations up to date, especially those over 65 – this really is the easiest and most effective way to protect yourself and the population.”

To ease pressure on hospital emergency departments, Mr Park urged people with non-life-threatening illnesses to contact NSW HealthDirect on 1800 022 222 to speak to a trained nurse.

Mr Park also urged people to stay at home if they feel unwell or to wear a mask when going out.

The free vaccination is also recommended for children between the ages of six months and five years, pregnant women, Aboriginal people aged six months and over and people with chronic illnesses.

The report also found that the number of Covid-19 reports is “increasing across all age groups and in most local health districts (LHDs).”

“In the last week, there continued to be high numbers of COVID-19 reports among those over 90 years of age,” it said.

“LHDs with smaller populations, such as Far West LHD, have greater variability in reporting rates.”

RSV infections were also common in children between two and four years of age, but the number of reports of positive cases in children under two years of age stabilized.

The reporting rate increased by 4 percent week-on-week.

Special emphasis was also placed on whooping cough and pneumonia.

The highest rate of whooping cough was found in children between the ages of five and 14, although the number of cases appears to be increasing.

Reporting rates rose rapidly between 2022 and 2024. In 2022, the virus was detected in one in 100,000 people, and in the period from 2023 to 2025, the figure was already 10.8 cases per 100,000 people.

In the current year 2024, this number has already risen to 85.4 reports per 100,000 people.

Pneumonia, a potentially fatal infection of the lungs, is also a concern for health authorities, as it is leading to an unusually high number of emergency room visits for children and young adults, particularly those between the ages of five and 16.

According to NSW Health, the data suggested that infection with the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae was likely the cause of the virus and that an epidemic had occurred in NSW.

“M. pneumoniae is a common cause of pneumonia in school-age children and epidemics occur every 3-5 years,” the report said.

“The last epidemic in NSW was before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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