The New South Wales chief medical officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has passed on her sympathy to the family of a 95-year-old resident from the Dorothy Henderson Lodge at Macquarie Park, who died on Tuesday in hospital and tested positive to the virus.
It is Australia’s second death record from coronavirus after a 78-year-old who had been evacuated from the Diamond Princess died in hospital in Perth.
An additional six confirmed cases of Covid-19 across Sydney on Thursday brings the total number of positive infections in NSW since the outbreak began to 22.
The new cases include a doctor who works at Liverpool hospital, a patient from the northern beaches, a man from Cronulla and a woman who is believed to have returned from the Philippines.
“The female doctor who was diagnosed on March 4 had no history of overseas travel. We are immediately establishing which staff and patients may need to self-isolate and be tested for Covid-19 should they be unwell.”
Two Australians have been diagnosed with a coronavirus infection that was acquired in the community and cannot be traced back to a source. Both people worked with vulnerable people, including hospital patients and the elderly.
There are now more than 40 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia, prompting the federal government to tighten its travel restrictions in relation to Iran, with anyone who has returned since 19 February required to self-isolate for 14 days.
On Wednesday the NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, said a 50-year-old woman working at the BaptistCare Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care facility in northern Sydney had tested positive to Covid-19. On Monday, a 53-year-old doctor working at Ryde hospital was also diagnosed.
The aged care worker became ill at work on 24 February, at which point she was isolated, and there is concern she may have spread the virus to patients and staff she was in close contact with in the 24 hours before that, Hazzard said. The woman is now stable and in isolation at Royal North Shore hospital.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most sick, so out of caution health authorities trace back an infected person’s contacts to the day before they fell ill.
As a result, 11 of the health worker’s patients had been placed in isolation. Two patients had developed symptoms and had been tested for the virus, with the results due by Thursday. One of those patients was the 95-year-old woman who died.
“It is concerning when we have somebody present with coronavirus and we can’t track the source,” Hazzard said. The aged care worker, like the doctor, had not travelled overseas.
“So that raises the question, how did she end up with coronavirus?” Hazzard said. The doctor had been in close contact with eight patients.
Only people in close contact with the infected doctor and health worker are at risk. A close contact is considered to be someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes with an infected person, or in the same closed space with an infected person for at least two hours without protective gear.
Once you remove an infected person and their close contacts from a facility or isolate them in hospital rooms, and disinfect surfaces, there is no longer any ongoing risk of infection.
Despite this, people on social media are already speaking of avoiding BaptistCare Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Ryde hospital. Chant said they were ill-informed. Suggesting those facilities should be avoided would be “doing a disservice to the community”, she said. People may avoid seeking healthcare for urgent conditions if they feared getting the virus from health facilities.
“Coronavirus is not in the hospital and you will do more harm if you don’t present to the hospital because you’re scared of coronavirus,” she said. NSW Health issued a directive to its staff on Tuesday saying anyone including students and volunteers who have travelled to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea in the past 14 days should contact their supervisors immediately and not attend work. Staff who are well but who have to isolate will be given work to do from home, such as mandatory training.
Chant said the community needed to understand the health advice would change as the Covid-19 epidemic continued, and that health departments were prepared for any spread. Once there is more widespread community spread, it would become unrealistic to test every person with symptoms, she said. But this was not a cause for alarm.
At that point, rather than diagnosing every case, people with symptoms would be encouraged to stay at home and isolate themselves. They would only need to call a doctor if their condition worsened.
“While we have a strong emphasis on testing at this point in time, we won’t be if there is community spread at significant levels,” Chant said. “It’s important the community understands the message will change depending on the circumstances. It’s not because we don’t know what we’re doing. We ask that the community follows our messages.”
Meanwhile in Victoria on Wednesday, a man who has returned from Iran was confirmed as the 10th case of coronavirus in that state.Advertisement
Queensland confirmed its 11th case, a 26-year-old man whoreturned from Iran on 26 February. The state’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said the man had felt unwell before the flight so authorities were tracking down people who had sat within two rows of him, to recommend they begin 14 days of self-isolation. They have already identified and isolated nine people who had close contact with him.
Queensland Health is also awaiting test results on the housemate of a 20-year-old man who tested positive on Tuesday.
The state’s health minister, Steven Miles, said it was unnecessary for people to stockpile supplies against the small chance that they would be asked to go into home isolation.
“If you are required to be isolated for 14 days [the Queensland government] will put supports around you, the Red Cross as well as our health staff will be there to help you … if you run out of toilet paper the Red Cross will be able to assist you to get toilet paper,” Miles said.
Those most at risk of the disease are people with co-morbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer and diabetes, and elderly people. There is still no sustained community spread in Australia.
Most of the 41 people diagnosed with coronavirus in Australia have recovered or were in a stable condition, but one man, a 78-year-old Western Australian, died on Sunday. All but the two NSW cases can be traced back to travel to an affected country, or contact with an infected family member who had travelled to an affected country.
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said the extended quarantine order for Iran was due to the “uncontrolled spread” there and was being implemented “out of an abundance of caution, but recognising that the situation in Iran is clearly far worse than has been documented and significantly higher than the recorded case numbers”.
Globally, the numbers have increased to more than 92,000 infections with more than 3,100 lives lost, Hunt said.
“It has now spread to over 78 countries, with Ukraine and Morocco included amongst those new countries.”
Source: THE GUARDIAN