Because our Land Down Under held onto the faint hope of maintaining a spotless track record at suppressing the virus for so long (RIP Covid-zero), Australia has had some catching up to do when it comes to certain quirks of ‘living with the virus’ that other parts of the world experienced months ago. The latest is a phenomenon that sprung up in London, New York and several European cities back last September and October, once lockdowns started to be phased out and mass gatherings became the norm once more, right when cold season was kicking off.
The common cold used to be, well, common, and it was rarely a big deal. A bit of runny, red nose, maybe watery eyes if it was particularly nasty, but nothing a Lemsip and a day off work couldn’t knock on the head. However, our anti-viral habits over the past couple of years have had a strange effect on the ol’ sniffles. After a year of efficiently evading the kinds of viruses our bodies were used to dealing with every day, our immune systems are a little rusty at combating some of the most common illnesses.
The result: the ‘super cold’, or as it was dubbed in London, WCE (Worst Cold Ever). Flu has similarly had a particularly serious impact as we've moved into winter. Over the two years while borders were sealed, Australians became so good at evading the flu that the virus was functionally eradicated here. However, now that an influx of overseas arrivals has brought the flu back to our shores, cases have skyrocketed to a five-year high and hospital admissions for the flu have also significantly surpassed the annual average. In fact, there has been such an explosion of cases that many Covid PCR test centres are now also offering flu screenings as standard.
The good news is that there is no major cause for serious concern. These aren't mutant strains coming for Covid’s gig, it’s just that our immune systems need to remember how to deal with the common cold. The bad news? The symptoms are uncannily similar to Covid, which is leading to a lot of very confused people passing negative RAT results despite feeling crook as a chook. So, if you have the classic Covid Trifecta – sore throat, runny nose, fatigue – but your RAT looks clean, it could be a case of the super cold or a particularly nasty case of the flu. That’s not to say that you can still go about your day-to-day – a PCR test is the only watertight way to totally rule out Covid. And even if it isn’t the rona, it might be best to keep your socialising to a minimum until you’re feeling better – no one wants your virus, no matter which one it is. But you can at least protect yourself from the flu by getting a vaccination. Most pharmacies offer them as walk ins, or you can book an appointment at your regular GPs surgery.