Warning over double virus risk
QUEENSLAND Health has ordered extra flu jabs this year to protect people from the double whammy effect of simultaneous influenza and coronavirus outbreaks.
Although a flu jab will not protect against COVID-19, Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said it was vital for people to avoid contracting influenza and the new coronavirus at once.
She urged Queenslanders to be extra vigilant about getting flu shots this year, given the threat of a COVID-19 epidemic in Australia.
"If you get multiple viral infections at the same time, you'll do worse," Dr Young said. "Let's remove one of the risks."
Government-funded flu vaccinations will start to become available from mid-next month for Queenslanders who are eligible, including people aged 65 and over, children under five and those with chronic conditions.
As part of measures to contain the novel coronavirus for as long as possible, Dr Young has also pleaded with Queenslanders returning from overseas to seek prompt medical help if they fall ill within 14 days, no matter where they have travelled.
Her passionate appeal comes as she attempted to reassure the public over the case a 63-year-old woman, who is in isolation in the Gold Coast University Hospital with COVID-19 after returning from Iran a week ago.
Dr Young said co-workers of the woman, an employee at the Hair Plus salon at Australia Fair, Southport, were not considered at increased risk of developing the novel coronavirus.
She also said assessments of the beautician's clients had so far found no sustained contact that would deem them at high risk.
"They didn't have that 15-minute sustained exposure that is needed to be regarded as a close contact," Dr Young said. "Their risk is extraordinarily low. There's no requirement for any of the people who attended that salon to go into home quarantine."
Dr Young said none of the 2700 people Queensland had asked to go into home isolation on returning from mainland China had tested positive.
But she said it was not a matter of if, but when Queensland had to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19, which has infected more than 86,000 people and killed at least 2900.
Although most of the cases have been in China, the novel virus is spreading so quickly internationally, the World Health Organisation is expected to give it pandemic status within weeks, if not days.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said people should expect elective surgery activity in public hospitals to be affected in the "likely" scenario of a coronavirus outbreak in Queensland during the coming months.
In the meantime, he's allocated $20 million in additional funding to run operating theatres on weekends and through Easter to increase elective surgery and reduce waiting lists before a COVID-19 outbreak hits.
"We know that our hospitals and our intensive care units will be very, very busy if a coronavirus outbreak occurs here in Queensland," he said.
"What we anticipate, based on the experience in other countries that have already had an outbreak is that while for most people the symptoms will be mild, a significant proportion will need intensive care.
"It's that intensive care space that, if occupied, can lead to cancellations of elective surgery."