Original Posted By .haiyaa►The Alfred hospital deals with multiple suspected cases of coronavirus
The Alfred hospital has already dealt with multiple suspected cases of coronavirus as Victoria’s health system prepares for a possible surge in infections.
The hospital has activated infection control measures prepared following the SARS epidemic, and alerted doctors in the emergency and intensive care departments to be on the lookout for signs of the virus.
Patients reporting with fevers and who have just returned from China are being given masks and moved into isolation while tests are conducted.
The Alfred hospital has activated infection control measures prepared following the SARS epidemic.
People can have the virus for up to two weeks before they show symptoms – meaning the number of cases could rise rapidly. Some healthcare workers in China have also been infected.
"We’re having to keep a close eye on everything. We’re getting a few suspected cases, but we have had no positive cases," said Professor Allen Cheng, director of the infection prevention unit at Alfred Health.
"All the cases we know of at this stage have been linked to Wuhan. We’re not yet getting cases from elsewhere.
"There are transmissions that have occurred in hospitals in this outbreak, but Chinese hospitals are different to ours, so we’d hope we’d be pretty vigilant about this thing."
2019-nCoV, the official designation for the new virus, emerged in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has spread through China – and across the world. As of Monday, there were 2744 confirmed cases in China and 80 deaths.
Australia’s extensive links with China mean we are certain to see infections here, particularly as the virus has spread across China.
One person has tested positive to coronavirus in Victoria, with 10 more people waiting on the results of tests.
The tests are being handled by the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory at the Doherty Institute in Parkville.
Because the disease is so similar to SARS and MERS, health authorities have been able to use tests developed for those conditions - giving them a headstart.
“We are far more advanced in terms of the science. We have learnt a lot from SARS and MERS," says Professor Kanta Subbarao, a researcher who helped develop testing techniques during the SARS outbreak. She is now based at the Doherty Institute.
The virus has similarities with SARS, a coronavirus that spread from animals to humans in southern China in 2002, infecting 8098 people and killing 774.
That virus tended to affect hospitals, sweeping through wards of already sick people, says Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Research Program at the Kirby Institute in Sydney.
"That’s where we saw the big outbreaks. Once people realised what the main transmission modes were, they tailored all their interventions and it stopped."
Australia’s healthcare system is gearing up to prevent something similar happening here.
A test for the virus has been designed, and a network of testing labs around the country has been activated.
Anyone who recently travelled to Wuhan and has flu-like symptoms is asked to call ahead before arriving at their GP’s office or hospital – a measure designed to prevent the infection from spreading.
Doctors are being asked to take full travel histories from anyone with symptoms of pneumonia.
Professor MacIntyre fears GPs are not ready.
"I don’t believe GPs' surgeries are at all well-prepared.At the moment we have a shortage of masks. If you walk into a chemist you won’t be able to get one,"
Much of the work to prepare for an incoming virus is being done quietly and behind the scenes, says Associate Professor Ian Mackay, an infectious disease expert at the University of Queensland.
"We have systems in place, we have protocols, we have expert committees and teams, we have Commonwealth disease networks, testing networks that all communicate with each other. And right now the phone lines are running hot,"
"We are as good as any country in the world at this."
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