Dog vaccine

Are you going to Ekka? Here are the best ways to avoid getting sick with COVID-19, monkeypox or the flu

As throngs of people flock to the Ekka showground, authorities are concerned about a potential spike in COVID-19 and flu cases in the Queensland community.

A slew of illnesses linger in the community with COVID cases still high, flu season not yet over, and cases of monkeypox reported across states.

With some 1,300 head of cattle on the scene, health authorities have also added a potentially devastating outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease to their list of concerns, although the risk remains low.

Returning after a two-year COVID-induced hiatus, Ekka’s crowds have exceeded expectations with people regularly walking through the doors.

Virologist Lara Herrero said the Ekka event will inevitably lead to a spike in COVID and flu transmission.

“I have absolutely no doubt that there will be an increase in transmission for an event like this – it’s simple math,” she said.

Lara Herrero says Ekka is likely to cause an increase in cases. (Provided: Griffith University)

So how can you safely hit the Ekka to devour a dagwood hound without getting sick?

Here are Dr. Herrero’s five key tips:

1. Don’t slack off

Dr. Herrero reminded those visiting the show to stay alert using all the usual tactics.

“Watch for any symptoms,” she said.

“Do your best to maintain this social distance of 1.5 meters where you can.

“Bring your own alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer.

“Avoid shaking hands and hugging – I would always choose to punch or greet.”

2. Wear a mask

People stand in front of toys during a show.
Queenslanders at the Ekka Show in Brisbane – some masked and some not.(ABC News: Marton Dobras)

You know the chorus.

Free masks will be available at the entrance to the exhibition center. When in doubt, mask yourself.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said he was impressed by the “reasonable number of people wearing masks”.

“Bring your mask or get one at the entrance, make sure you’re protected and you won’t have any problems,” he said.

Queensland Health encouraged everyone at the Ekka to wear a face mask, “not just for themselves but for everyone else who is there to celebrate safely”.

Dr. Herrero said she has no doubt that people who live in the regions who come to Ekka and return home to regional and rural areas will bring the infection back with them.

“We have more cases in the city because we have more people, we live in a high density community with more cases.

“So in absolute numbers, I have no doubt that transmission in the regions will increase.

“It’s a good idea for people returning to regional and remote areas to wear a mask for 24-48 hours to stop transmission to vulnerable people.”

3. Stay away if you don’t feel well.

“Ekka is a community thing, so if you have any symptoms, however mild, have a little community spirit and stay home,” Dr. Herrero said.

Mr Furner advised anyone feeling unwell to stay away from places of exposure, get tested and self-isolate.

“We don’t want people coming here spreading disease, whether it’s flu or COVID,” he said.

“Stand back if you’re not feeling well and get tested.”

4. Wash your shoes and clothes from foreign dirt

People watch the animals at the royal show.
Visitors to the Ekka show should maintain good hand hygiene when playing with farm animals amid fears of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.(ABC News: Marton Dobras)

The Ekka Show is the largest beef stud show in the Southern Hemisphere with some 1,300 head of cattle on the show grounds.

This raised fears of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that could cost the industry an estimated $80 billion.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Wyatt has estimated there is an 11.6% risk of a potentially devastating outbreak, triggering a 72-hour national livestock shutdown and controls at more long-term animal movements.

A preventive task force has been set up with border security on site.

Dr. Herrero strongly advised people living in agricultural areas to wash their shoes and clothes of dirt or mud from any other agricultural area to avoid an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

5. Get vaccinated

A vial rests on a gause swab with monkeypox written on it
The Monkeypox vaccine is not yet available to the Australian public.(Reuters: Dado Ruvic)

With just over three weeks of winter remaining, most of you would have already had your COVID and flu shots.

The fourth COVID vaccine WhereWinter Shot” is available to all Australians over 30, as well as:

  • Persons aged 16 years and older who are severely immunocompromised
  • People aged 16 and over who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe COVID-19 illness
  • People aged 16 and over who have disabilities with significant, complex, or multiple health conditions that increase the risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19 infection.

The second booster shots are available from GPs and participating pharmacies across Queensland.

You can book online or call your GP to check if they accept walk-in visits.

You can also find your nearest GP or participating pharmacy using the vaccination clinic finder.

Find out where you can get your flu shot here.

As for monkeypox, Health Minister Mark Butler said Australia had secured 450,000 doses of the vaccine, which should arrive early this week at the latest.