The top five nasty winter illnesses: what they are and recommended treatment

Dr Kanthi Vemuri

This winter has seen an increase in colds, flus and other respiratory illnesses in Queensland.

We asked TPCH infectious diseases physician Dr Kanthi Vemuri, who is also a specialist in infections of the immune compromised host, about the top five nasty winter illnesses that are circulating at the moment, what they are, and recommended treatment:

1. The flu

What is it?  It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by Influenza viruses.

How do we treat it? You can take influenza antiviral medication called Tamiflu. This works best when started within 1-2 days after flu symptoms begin and can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by about a day.

2. COVID-19

What is it? Disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is highly contagious and spreads quickly. Compared to the flu, COVID-19 can cause more severe illness in vulnerable people.

How do we treat it? We recommend antiviral treatment with IV remdesivir for people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 and hospitalised, but for non-hospitalised patients, oral antiviral called Paxlovid is available and rest and recovery at home is also recommended.

3. RSV

What is it? Respiratory syncytial virus is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It can be serious in infants and adults over 60 years of age. It can cause inflammation of the airways and can cause severe illness needing hospital admission.

How do we treat it? There is no specific treatment available other than rest, but prevention is the best way to stay healthy. Be sure to practice good hygiene and if you have a newborn, you can get the RSV vaccine to keep them safe.

4. Whooping cough

What is it? Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a very contagious respiratory illness, caused by bacteria. It is a prolonged severe coughing illness, but starts with runny nose, sneezing and mild occasional cough.

How do we treat it? Antibiotics given earlier in the disease may ameliorate the disease but may have little effect on symptoms if given later in the illness. You can get your vaccine to prevent severe infection, though!

5. Mycoplasma pneumoniae

What is it?  It is a bacterium that can cause respiratory illness ranging from mild symptoms to severe pneumonia (lung infection).

How do we treat it? Most infections are mild, and most people recover without treatment, but antibiotics may be used for severe infections, and you may need to be cared for in hospital.

If you are unsure about the health condition or risk status of those around you, the best way forward this winter is to practice using additional prevention strategies, like masking, physical distancing, and testing if symptoms develop.

2024-06-10T09:52:50+10:0010 June 2024|