Showing posts with label health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label health. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Mosquitoes likely to remain a health hazard this winter

In January 1991 Ross River Fever became a notifiable disease in New South Wales and in that first year the Northern NSW local health district recorded 11 cases.

Up to the end of April in 2020 Northern NSW has recorded 156 cases. Only the Hunter New England local heath district is recording a higher figure at 183 cases.

By contrast Barmah Forest Virus, another notifiable disease, has only been recorded 25 times so far this year.

However, both are mosquito borne infections that are worth doing our best to avoid.

NSW Health advises:

To protect against mosquitoes and reduce the risk of diseases they transmit:
  • Cover-up with a loose-fitting long sleeved shirt and long pants when outside
  •  Apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin
  •  Take special care during peak mosquito biting hours, especially around dawn and dusk
  •  Remove potential mosquito breeding sites from around the home and screen windows and doors
  •  Take extra precautions when travelling or camping in areas with a higher risk of mosquito-borne diseases.
  • For more detailed information on reducing the risk of mosquito bites at home and while travelling see the Mosquitoes are a Health Hazard fact sheet. This also includes more information on mosquito repellents.
As the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a 70% chance of wetter than average weather from July to September & warmer than average temperatures for coastal New South Wales in June to August this year, it is possible that infected mosquitoes will still be aound this winter so being aware of the mosquito load in your garden is advisable..

At the end of April Stratford Virus was detected in mosquitoes trapped in Yamba at the mouth of the Clarence River. This virus is not notifiable in New South Wales and infection usually presents as a mild fever with associated joint pain and lethagy.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Saga of the Morrison Government's COVIDSafe App

The New Daily
First came the announcement that the Australian Dept. of Health was creating a virus contact tracing app to allow health officials to discover how many people had been in contact with future confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection.

This announcement was followed with an app name, COVIDSafe. Branding it would appear that was shamelessly filched from another app being trialled in the United States.

Soon after we were told that at least 40 per cent of the Australian population would have to voluntarily download the free app for tracing to be an effective public health tool.

Once the $1.5 million app was released on the evening of Sunday 26 April 2020 it was found to only be supported by a ministerial determination rather than legislation and, to be riddled with design & implementation flaws. Some of which were dangerous to the wellbeing of individuals whose vital health aids were supported by Bluetooth.

Draft legislation limited in scope and publication of the app source code surfaced days later.

By 1 May Prime Minister Morrison was reported as saying that easing COVID-19 public health restrictions and a return to normality will depend on uptake of the Covidsafe contact tracing app.

On 4 May the app's visuals were slightly changed and a few bugs were allegedly fixed in an automatic update. However, significant problems with use continued to be reported.

By 9 May it was obvious that the more than 10 million people needed to make digital contact tracing effective were not about to materialise.

Once the number of app downloads failed to reach 6 million the Morrison Government's rhetoric changed.

It went from saying '4 million downloads were required', to 'as many downloads as possible is the aim' and on to 'there is no target number set' for app downloads.

It also ceased linking download/registration numbers with the easing of public health restrictions and, by 8 May the National Cabinet had released its three-step plan to ease restrictions which the states and territories are beginning to implement subject to their own individual circumstances.

So it comes as no surprise to hear that the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 has been told that virus contact tracing is not dependent on the use of the app and, tracing methods currently in place will continue even after the app tracing system is fully operational.

It would appear that Morrison & Co were lying when they stated or implied that easing public health restrictions was dependent on widespread uptake of the app. 

Despite people installing and registering the COVIDsafe app from 27 April onwards, as of Wednesday 13 May the app tracing sytem was not yet fully operational because health departments in the states and territories are yet to avail themselves of the virus contact database.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

North Coast Public Health Unit reminding Northern NSW residents to protect themselves against mosquitoes which remain in high numbers late in the season

Northern NSW Local Health District, media release, 27 April 2020:

The North Coast Public Health Unit is reminding residents of Northern NSW to protect themselves against mosquitoes which remain in high numbers late in the season.
“Mosquitoes have persisted in large numbers through to early autumn, along with the warm weather in recent weeks,” Paul Williamson, Senior Environmental Health Officer, said.
The NSW Arbovirus Surveillance and Mosquito Monitoring Program recently detected Barmah Forest virus and Ross River virus in mosquitoes in the Northern NSW area. Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses are common on the north coast and are transmitted by infected mosquitoes.
So far this year, 32 north coast residents have been diagnosed with Barmah Forest virus infection and 153 with Ross River virus infections, which is two and three times the number of infections, respectively, for the same period last year. One hundred and nineteen of these infections have been reported in the last four weeks, which is six times the number reported in the same period last year.
“These infections can cause symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever, and sore and swollen joints. The symptoms usually resolve after several days, but some people may experience these symptoms for weeks or even months,” Mr Williamson said.
Avoiding mosquito bites will be especially important until cooler weather brings an end to the mosquito-breeding season.
Whilst most people are at home due to current movement restrictions, many people are heading outdoors early or late in the day to get some exercise.
“Mosquitoes are very active at these times so protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes when out-and-about.”
Simple steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes include:
  • Cover up as much as possible when outside with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
  • Use an effective insect repellent on exposed skin. Re-apply repellent within a few hours, as protection wears off with perspiration. The best mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin. Botanical based products (e.g. eucalyptus, citronella etc.) provide only limited periods of protection.
  • Use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies. Repellents should not be used on the skin of children under the age of three months.
  • Check the product label of repellents for recommended age of use. Most skin repellents are safe to use for children over the age of 3 months or older. Some formulations are only suitable for children over 12 months.
  • Use insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clear rooms or repel mosquitoes from an area.
  • Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens.
  • Remove and prevent mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as emptying containers that hold water.
“Preventing infection with these viruses depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially as the mosquitoes have become active after recent rain, warm days and high tides,” Mr Williamson said.
Fact sheets are available from the NSW Health website:
Weekly reports are available during the arbovirus season from the New South Wales Arbovirus Surveillance and Mosquito Monitoring Program:

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Covid-19 testing in the Clarence Valley in February to April 2020

As of 20 April 2020 there were 56 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Northern Rivers region.

Eight of these cases were found in the Clarence Valley.

Image: Clarence Valley Council

By 20 April 2020 records show testing had been undertaken in a number of Clarence Valley post codes:
  • 21 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2453, which covers Dundurrabin, Tyringham, Clouds Creek, Wild Cattle Creek and 16 other locations.
  • 13 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2469, which covers Woombah, Tabulam, Ewingar, Moraro, Paddy's Flat and over 40 other locations.
  • 13 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2466, which covers Woody Head, Iluka and The Fresh Water.
  • COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2465, which covers Harwood Island.
  • 109 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2464, which covers Yamba, Woolowyah, Angourie, Freebirn Island, Micalo Island and Yuragir.
  • 110 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2463, which covers Maclean, Townsend, Gulmarrad, James Creek, Brooms Head, Palmers Island, Ashby, Tullymorgan and 10 other locations.
  • 22 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2462, which covers Wooli, Minnie Waters, Ulmarra, Tucabia, Coldstream and 7 other locations.
  • COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2461, which covers part of South Grafton.
  • 340 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in postcode 2460, which covers Grafton, Nymboida, Coutts Crossing, Copmanhurst, Jackadgery, Baryugil, Lawrence, and over 30 other locations.
The Clarence Valley had a resident population of 51,662 people in 2019 and testing up to 20 April 2020 does not appear to have exceeded est. 1.2% of this population.

NSW Department of Health guidelines are that testing only occurs when a person presents with upper respiratory symptoms, such as a fever, sore throat, dry cough, breathlessness. Therefore any asymptomatic virus carriers slip through the net.

Despite the limitations of the 'flattening the curve' public health response to COVID-19, there has been no new cases in the NSW Northern Rivers region for the last 6 days and none in the Clarence Valley for the last 21 days.

I'm not exhaling yet, but this is a hopeful sign.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Homelessness an issue in NSW Northern Rivers region during COVID-19 pandemic

The Northern Star, 9 April 2020, p.7:

If you’re sleeping rough and you’re exposed to COVID-19, it’s not simple to self-isolate. 

But it’s expected support services will be put in place for people in that situation across the region. 

Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones has explained health authorities would liaise with service providers and local councils to make sure help was available for rough sleepers.

He said those experiencing homelessness would be given accommodation support if they need to self-isolate. 

Byron Shire Council’s director of corporate and community services, Vanessa Adams, said she was keen for the council and local agencies to talk with the health district so they could make sure help reaches those most in need.

At the last street count in August 2019, the shire had 171 rough sleepers. Ms Adams said this was “a disproportionately high number of people” for Byron’s population, compared with Sydney’s 330 people living on the streets.

“People who are sleeping rough often have underlying health issues that’ll increase their vulnerability to something like a pandemic,” Ms Adams said.

She said it was “absolutely vital” to help them at a time like this. “It’s not just the accommodation, it’s the services that go with that,” she said.....

Monday, 23 March 2020

Northern Rivers independent schools and tertiary institutions are considering their options during this global pandemic

The Northern Star, 19 March 2020: 

Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School will be the first school on the Northern Rivers to effectively close due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Parents of 370 children the school have been advised to keep the kids at home from Wednesday if possible. School is open, but most kids have stayed home. 

“We have a very small number of students here at school,” Principal Nerida Johnson said. 

“It’s been quiet all week, we had 34 per cent of students absent yesterday.” 

Vulnerable staff and students were advised to stay home early in the week and her directive, issued to all students on Wednesday morning, has been met with relief. .....

“Essentially, we are making decisions looking at all the reports and making sure we’re doing our bit to keep the community safe,” Ms Johnson said.

“Parents have been overwhelmingly supportive; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many messages of support. 

“Parents were feeling frustrated at the mixed messaging, we are being told to self-isolate and at the same time to send our children to school. 

“We cannot possibly do physically distancing with the younger classes; we cannot keep classrooms of children 1.5m away from each other.

The Northern Star, 19 March 2020: 

Southern Cross University will deliver all its study programs online from Monday, March 23, but its campuses will remain open. 

This includes Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Gold Coast regional campuses, as well as metropolitan campuses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. 

Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker announced the move as a response to the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“We have made this move in the best interests of our students and our teaching staff,” the Vice Chancellor said. 

“While every degree that we offer will now be available online, all of our campuses remain open.” 

All teaching will convert to the online mode by Monday. “Unless otherwise advised, classes will be delivered online at the same time that face-to-face classes would have occurred. 

Students’ timetables will not change, but how they engage with classes will,” Professor Shoemaker said.

“Some activity which cannot be undertaken online — such as clinical placements in Health and Teaching practicums — will continue unless otherwise advised.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

COVID-19 virus spread in NSW is gaining pace in March 2020

This post is no longer updating.
11 Affected NSW Local Heath Districts, 14 March 2020

In the space of fourteen days the COVID-19 virus went from 6 cases in New South Wales to 91 cases.

To date 44.4% of all Australian confirmed COVID-19 cases are in this state.


48.7% as of 15 March 2020
45.2% as of 16 March 2020
46.6% as of 17 March 2020
47% as of 18 March 2020
45% as of 19 March 2020
41.7% as of 20 March 2020
40.6% as of 21 March 2020
39.36% as of 22 March 2020
41% as of 23 March 2020
44.6% as of 24 March 2020
42.4% as of 25 March 2020
43.5% as of 26 March 2020

Cumulative COVID-19 confirmed infection numbers since the outbreak began in New South Wales*
  • 15 January 2020 - 1 case
  • 25 January 2020 - 3 cases
  • 31 January to 28 February 2020 - 4 cases
  • 29 February 2020 - 6 cases
  • 2 March 2020 - 9 cases
  • 3 March 2020 - 15 cases
  • 4 March 2020 - 22 cases
  • 5 March 2020 - 25 cases
  • 6 March 2020 - 28 cases
  • 7 March 2020 - 36 cases
  • 8 March 2020 - 40 cases
  • 9 March 2020 - 47 cases
  • 10 March 2020- 54 cases
  • 11 March 2020 - 64 cases
  • 12 March 2020 - 77 cases
  • 13 March 2020 - 91 cases
  • 14 March 2029 -111 cases
  • 15 March 2020 - 133 cases
  • 16 March 2020 - 171 cases
  • 17 March 2020 - 210 cases
  • 18 March 2020 - 267 cases
  • 19 March 2020 - 307 cases
  • 20 March 2020 - 353 cases
  • 21 March 2020 - 436 cases
  • 22 March 2020 -533 cases
  • 23 March 2020 - 704 cases
  • 24 March 2020 - 818 cases
  • 25 March 2020 - 1,209 cases
  • 26 March 2020 - 1,219 cases
Conservative infectious disease models suggest that every person infected with COVID-19 has the potential to infect 4 other people.

On 1 February 2020 Australian Prime Minister & MP for Cook Scott Morrison announced a ban on direct travel from mainland China.

On 29 February 2020 Morrison imposed a ban on direct travel from Iran. However this was a case of closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.

On 5 March he announced a ban on travel from Korea and on 11 March from Italy. 

As of 14 March Morrison refuses to consider a ban on travel from the United States of America, even though more people who have entered Australia from the US have been diagnosed with the coronavirus than was the case with incoming flights from Iran.

By Saturday morning, 14 March 2020 there were 197 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia with 3 deaths and 27 fully recovered, according to an Australian Dept. of Health health alert on the same day. This left 167 confirmed active cases of COVID-19.

That figure changed later on Saturday, as New South Wales,  Western Australia and South Australia reported additional cases, bringing the national count to 223 confirmed cases with three deaths and 27 fully recovered.

As of midnight 14 March 2020 the national count stood at 250 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 8:82pm 15 March 2020 the national count of COVID-19 cases is 251.
As of 11am 15 March 2020 the national count is 273 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 15 March 2020 the COVID-19 national death toll has reached 5 persons.
As of 16 March 2020 the national count is 378 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 17 March 2020 the national count is 450 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 18 March 2020 the national count is 568 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 19 March 2020 the national count is 681 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 20 March 2020 the national count is 846 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 21 March 2020 the national count is 986 confirmed COVID-19 cases. As of midnight on 21 March the national count was 1,073 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 7 deaths.
As of 22 March 2020 the national count is 1,354 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 
As of 23 March 2020 the national count is 1,717 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of 24 March 2020 the national count is 1,831 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 
As of 25 March 2020 the national count is 2,423 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 
As of 26 March 2020 the national count is 2,799 confirmed COVID-19 cases - the number of deaths has now reached 13.

If Victorian Dept of Health published data is any indication then exposure to this particular coronavirus is likely to occur at Australian airports, aboard domestic/international commercial airline flights, on metropolitan trains, at sporting events, in parks/ovals, at supermarkets, university campuses, hotels, cinemas, markets and medical practices, as well as at high schools.

During this last week, despite federal or state governments refusing to outright ban large gatherings of over 500 people (and only offering recommendations for many types of gatherings) and the prime minister encouraging people to turn up at sporting events, actual event organisers and businesses began to make their own decisions to either cancel events or run them without audiences.

By Friday, after the general public discovered that at least one federal cabinet minister had tested positive for COVID-19, Scott Morrison altered his stance and advised all "non-essential, organised gatherings" of 500 people or more be cancelled from Monday to limit the spread of COVID-19

Mainstream media reported that Mr. Morrison refused to be tested for the virus and, extended this exemption to all of his ministers, stating none needed to be tested or needed to self-isolate.

It seems that there is one rule for the general population based on proven epidemiology protocols and one special rule for Scott Morrison and his political mates.

Luckily for the people of New South Wales someone in the Berejiklian Government had a different perspective on political privilege and, the Sydney offices used by Morrison and certain other cabinet ministers - along with various state /territory ministers and departmental staff - were promptly cleaned.


* Official numbers are not updated on Saturday or Sunday. However, looking at the exponential growth to date, by Monday 16 March 2020, the state of New South Wales may have entered the point of no return if it has not completely banned all large gatherings. 
See: for latest NSW statistics. Please be aware that the original statistics show 1 interstate resident diagnosed in NSW, who by protocol is listed under state of residence, so has been deducted by me from the NSW total. 
It appears that an est. 16,593 people in NSW have been tested for the virus to date, with 14,665 returning a negative result.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

COVID-19 exposure reaches the NSW Northern Rivers region in March 2020

ABC North Coast, 11 March 2020:

It is possible that another two people are already infected because of being "directly or indirectly associated with attendance at a workshop". NSW Health does not state where the workshop was held. [NSW Health, alert, 10 March 2020].

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Novel Coronna Virus Epidemic - update and mapping

According to the World Health Organisation Coronna Viruses (C0V) are: 

a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). 

A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. 

Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. 

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. 

Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness...

The current Novel Coronna Virus (COVID-19) was first reported on 31 December 2019.

Worldwide there have been between 64,518 confirmed cases* of novel coronavirus and 1,383 reported deaths. The fatality rate is currently 2.3%.

Although highly infectious it appears that relatively quick responses from public health authorities around the world is limiting its spread.

Only 586 cases of COVID-19 to date have been diagnosed outside the country of virus origin. Two deaths have been recorded.

There have been no deaths from this viral infection in Australia.

Australian Government Dept. of Health:

As at 06:00 hrs on 14 February 2020, we have confirmed 15 cases of novel coronavirus in Australia: 

5 in Queensland 
4 in New South Wales 
4 in Victoria 
2 in South Australia 

6 of the earlier cases have recovered. 

The others are in a stable condition.

All of these cases came into contact with the virus outside of Australia.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical MedicineThe Conversationmodelling suggests that the 2019-nCoV outbreak could peak in mid to late February if current trends continue.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine mapping at

20 January 2020

14 February 2020

* According to the World Health Organisation China is now reporting clinically diagnosed cases in addition to laboratory-confirmed cases, which has increased the number of recorded COVID-19 infections in that country by 13,332 people as of 13 February 2020.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison doesn't have to suffer the effects of prolonged exposure to bushfire smoke. How good is that?

Kirribilli House, Sydney, situated on Kirribilli Point with an uninterrupted view eastwards across Sydney Harbour is an official residence of the Prime Minister of Australia.

Prime Minister & MP for Cook Scott Morrison moved into this large, harbour-side residence in September 2018.

I believe there is air conditioning in rooms on the bedroom floor, but not in the well-ventilated rooms on the ground floor.

By June 2019 it appears that Scotty From Marketing had his rent-free residence set up just the way he liked it, courtesy of the taxpayer dollar.

The Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2020:

Taxpayers also coughed up more than $3000 during the 2018-19 summer for four Dyson fans but can be reassured they came with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, ensuring the Morrisons weren’t bothered by harmful bushfire smoke particles.

Apparently such an air filter which retails at $799 per unit will automatically purify a whole room.

  • Automatically detects and reports air quality levels in real time on PM2.5, PM10, VOC and NO2
  • Activated carbon filters remove gases. Sealed HEPA filters capture 99.95% of ultrafine particles such as allergens and pollutants
  • ...delivers over 290 litres per second of smooth, yet powerful airflow – circulating purified air throughout the whole room
  • Automatically senses, captures and projects – then reports to your Dyson Link app
  • Adjustable oscillation angle from 45° to 350°, to help project purified air around the whole room
  • Purifies all year round. Cools you in summer
  • Purifies without the draught
  • Night-time mode Monitors and purifies using its quiet settings, with a dimmed display
  • Remote control
Seems Morrison had his primary residence well kitted out for the predicted 2019 severe fire season months before the bushfires actually struck.

The fire season commenced for me on 17 August 2019 but didn’t start to really kick off in a big way until around four weeks later, when I was living under this thick bushfire smoke below for weeks on end….

The Daily Examiner

Unlike Scott Morrison, I live in a small rented unit with no air conditioning and on an income so low that I can only dream of owning even one Dyson air purifier.

So when the hot, thick smoke from the bushfires seeped through the edges of my home’s window and door frames, when I could not clear this smoke as opening any window or door just let in more smoke, when my eyes began to sting, my throat hurt, my head ache, my already compromised respiratory system struggled and the pain in my tight chest became so bad that I thought I might be having a heart attack – I had no way of pressing a remote control button to relieve my distress with a Dyson.

Bushfire smoke blew over me to varying degrees for four months, reducing any remaining sense of wellbeing and restricting my ability to move outside the confines of my home, while Prime Minister Morrison called for patience and calm and his deputy prime minister told the media; "Yes, the smoke is a problem but smoke, as it always does, will blow away."

The smoke did eventually go away, but my ability to breathe easily most of the time has not returned in its absence and I fear it never will.

But that’s OK – after all Scott Morrison can play backyard cricket on Kirribilli House lawns, sip wine of an evening on the verandahs or stroll outside to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks – safe in the knowledge that he can return to the air conditioning and the four air purifiers I helped pay for.