The coronavirus pandemic could combine with Australia's winter flu season and cause a surge in people needing hospital treatment.
Health officials admitted they don't know what impact a double disease outbreak could have, but are planning for increased hospital admissions.
NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, said the convergence of the two virus' could come within a couple of months.
"We could see a convergence in the next eight to 10 weeks of a flu season and the coronavirus, and that may be an issue that the consequences are still being determined," he told media.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said they're planning for an increase in people going to emergency departments with respiratory issues relating to possible coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as flu.
"While the few COVID-19 cases in NSW to date have been mild, the global spread of the virus, coupled with flu season fast approaching, means the situation for our hospitals could change quickly so we're asking everyone to plan now," she said.
"We have already commenced planning for a surge in respiratory presentations to emergency departments, noting we might end up having influenza coming at a peak time as well as the COVID19 infection.
"We also might see more admissions to our ICU departments, so again we're planning for future for those, as well as general need for hospitalisations."
The fears come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison this afternoon announced Australia has initiated its emergency response plan, adding the outbreak was entering the pandemic phase.
Health bosses confirmed they are closely monitoring the rapid spread of the virus in countries including Italy and South Korea, admitting there's an "increased likelihood" of person-to-person transmission in Australia.
So far there have been four cases in NSW, and 23 in Australia, but all patients have so far caught the disease overseas.
A total of 2500 people have been tested in the country, while 21,000 passengers have been tested when arriving at Sydney Airport.
Businesses are being asked look at how they can help keep staff safe, including the importance of staying away when sick, working from home when possible and rolling out alcohol rub.
"Simple hygiene measures like regular hand washing, sneezing into your elbow and, most importantly, staying home when sick, will not only help ease ED presentations for flu but also support existing COVID-19 pandemic plans," Mr Hazzard said.
He admitted emergency departments are already "chockas" and should be only for real emergencies.
Dr Chant said each person who has the disease can infect two or three more people, especially when they have few symptoms.
"That's because this disease is mild in many, and severe in some," she said.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-australia-winter-flu-season-hospital-emergency-department-pandemic-china/effb0df3-676a-4c98-8a6d-f2e5f8a0fe9a