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COVID-19, flu and respiratory virus wreaking havoc across Hunter


The Hunter is experiencing its next wave of COVID-19, and this time it has two accomplices; flu and respiratory virus.

According to Hunter New England Health Public Health Physician Dr David Durrheim we are being hit by a horrible triad of viruses at the moment.


“Unfortunately, cases of Covid-19 are on the increase,” Dr Durrheim told Newcastle Weekly.

“We know from experience that this virus goes well in cold and congested environments and that’s what we have now, as it gets colder we tend to gather indoors.

“We’re already seeing the impacts in aged care and hospitals in our region.”

Recording exact number of positive COVID-19 cases is challenging for medical professionals at the moment, Dr Durrheim admits.

“Now that test availability is limited and it’s not mandatory to test, it’s harder to get an accurate figure but I can tell you we are definitely having another wave of Covid-19 unfortunately.”

There are currently 80 people hospitalised with Covid-19 in Hunter New England. 

“This is the highest number we’ve seen since January. 

“There are 20 aged care cases on our books, the last time we saw numbers like that was January.”


And it’s not just Covid-19 causing concern amongst the medical professions. 

“Influenza case numbers are rising and have started earlier this year,” Dr Durrheim says. 

“Traditionally we have about 500 cases of influenza at this time of year but I can confirm we have 794 cases in our hospital system at the moment.” 


An RSV infection initially presents itself with cold-like symptoms, often mistaken for mild bronchitis or asthma. It can, however, develop into lung infections and pneumonia, making it hard for a peson to breathe. 

RSV can last for more than two weeks. 

Dr David Durrheim

“Unfortunately, we’re also seeing large numbers of RSV in the community as well,” Dr Durrheim says. 

“A large number of children in particular are presenting at our hospitals with bronchial restrictive breathing issues.” 

“This really is a horrible triad of respiratory viruses hitting us at the moment.” 

With the calendar still a week away from the start of winter, Dr Durrheim is remining Hunter residents to take action now to keep themselves safe during the colder months. 

“We need to get sensible again. 

“By that I mean try to avoid crowded indoor environments, let’s get back to wearing masks on public transport and shopping centres, especially if you are in a high-risk category.” 

Dr David Durrheim.

High risk categories, Dr Durrheim says, include older residents, children under five years of age, thse with suppressed immunity, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.  

“If you have not had Covid in the past six months and do not have the flu I’d suggest you get a bivalent booster. 

“The current influenza vaccine that we have has been matched to the strain of influenza that hit the Northern Hemisphere last season so it should provide good protection. 

“Jab and mask might be sensible at this time.” 

From May 13 PCR Testing in NSW changed.  

New regulations state most people with COVID-19 symptons (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever) can do a rapid antigen test (RAT) and If they test positive are advised to register the finding with Service NSW, access medical support and follow the advice for managing COVID-19 safely at home. 

RATs are available for free at Service NSW service centres, mobile service centres and recovery centres. Find a RAT near you

If you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, contact your doctor for testing advice. If you can’t contact your doctor, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or use the online Service Finder to find a GP near you. 

If your doctor recommends a COVID-19 PCR test, they will give you a pathology referral form for a free COVID-19 PCR test. 

The referral form will have a private pathology provider location to visit so you can get tested. 

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