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The Alfred hospital deals with multiple suspected cases of coronavirus

The Alfred hospital deals with multiple suspected cases of coronavirus

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 deals with multiple suspected cases of coronavirus

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," she said.

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," he said.

"We are as good as any country in the world at this."

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Four hundred people register with DFAT to be evacuated from Wuhan to Australia as death toll mounts

The Alfred hospital deals with multiple suspected cases of coronavirus
Medical staff work at Wuhan Jinyintan hospital, which specialises in the treatment of coronavirus.

About 400 people have registered with DFAT for evacuation from a region in China under lockdown as the death toll from the outbreak soared.

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China has soared to 106 while nearly 1,300 new cases have been confirmed, authorities said Tuesday.

The health commission in central Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic, said 24 more people had died from the virus and 1,291 more people were infected, raising the total number of confirmed cases to more than 4,000 nationwide.

It comes as about 400 people have registered for help to get out of a Chinese province under lockdown because of the deadly coronavirus.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and officials have made "significant progress" in finding a way for Australians stuck in China to get home, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

"They are being crosschecked to ensure there is no double-counting because sometimes you will have understandably multiple family members report the same person so they are going through that process, but at this stage, approximately 400 registrations have been placed with Foreign Affairs," he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"The Foreign Minister and the embassy are working with the Chinese authorities and the advice I have from Foreign Minister Payne just before coming here is there's been significant progress."

Five people are being treated in Australian hospitals for the virus, but chief health officer Brendan Murphy said they are in a stable condition.

"In fact one of them is so well, they're only in hospital because of the quarantine requirements," he told reporters.

A 21-year-old Sydney university student became the country's fifth person to be diagnosed after flying back from the virus's epicentre in Wuhan, China.

Three men - aged 35, 43 and 53 - are also being treated at Sydney's Westmead Hospital and are in a stable condition.

Authorities says there's potential for more cases and are working to trace all contact the five patients have had, including people who were on the same flights

NSW Health confirmed five people were also undergoing testing.

A man in his 50s in Victoria is being treated at Monash Medical Centre while four of his family members are under home isolation

In the latest case to be identified by authorities,the UNSW student displayed no symptoms upon landing in Sydney on China Eastern flight MU749 last Thursday but 24 hours later began exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

The diagnosis came as some schools around the country took action to segregate students who had visited China.

Ten Chinese pupils at Brisbane's Stuartholme are being isolated to their own floor of the boarding house for two weeks and assessed regularly for illness under the advice of Queensland Health, The Australian reported.

Pymble Ladies College in Sydney and Firbank Grammar School in Melbourne advised parents to keep their children at home for at least two weeks if they had visited an affected area in China.

The Alfred hospital deals with multiple suspected cases of coronavirus
A thermal sensor checks body temperatures to screen for the corona virus at Seoul airport, Korea.

Other private schools requested students who had visited the affected regions in China provide a doctor's certificate.

China's National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the country's health officials believed patients were infectious during the virus' incubation period, which ranges from one-to-14 days.

Until now, doctors have believed patients are only contagious when they start showing symptoms, but the government was seeking urgent advice from the World Health Organisation.

"The expert panels were not convinced of that at the moment. They were not convinced that evidence is being presented," Prof Murphy said previously.

"It would be very unusual because this virus is similar to the SARS and MERS viruses and they were not infectious before symptoms.

"If that were to be the case, it would have implications for contact tracing."

Countries that are planning to evacuate citizens from the virus-hit areas:

Germany will evacuate 90 citizens living in China’s Wuhan region.

Morocco will evacuate 100 citizens, mostly students, from the Wuhan area.

France expects to repatriate up to a few hundred of its 800 citizens living in the Wuhan area. Evacuees will have to spend 14 days in quarantine to avoid spreading the virus in France.

Japan is expected to arrange charter flights as early as Tuesday for any of its citizens who wish to return from Wuhan, two sources familiar with the matter said. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said about 430 Japanese nationals have been confirmed to be in Hubei province.

Spain’s government is working with China and the European Union to repatriate Spanish nationals from the Wuhan area, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said.

US State Department said it will evacuate personnel from its Wuhan consulate to the United States and offer a limited number of seats to private US citizens on a flight. Some private citizens will be able to board the “single flight” leaving Wuhan on 28 January for San Francisco, it said.

Britain is talking to international partners to find solutions to help British and other foreign nationals leave Wuhan, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Canada has about 167 nationals in the Wuhan area, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Monday, and eight people have sought consular assistance, which is being provided. While the minister did not rule out possible evacuations, he did not indicate there were any planned at the moment, adding that each consular request would be evaluated on a “case by case basis”.

Russia has been in talks with China about evacuating its nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province, Russia’s embassy in China said.

The Dutch government is assessing ways to evacuate 20 Dutch citizens from Wuhan, press agency ANP reported.

Authorities in Myanmar said they had cancelled a planned evacuation of 60 students from Mandalay who were studying in Wuhan. Kyaw Yin Myint, a spokesman for the Mandalay municipal government, told Reuters that a “final decision” had been made to send them back after 14 days, once the virus’ incubation period had passed.

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