Ebola Advice for Clinicians by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is finally becoming noticed by western nations months after it should have been. Our health department are putting out plans and guidelines in case infected patients reach Australia.

If you are interested in information that is a bit more technical than the newspapers I urge you to have a look at the article Caring for Patients With Ebola: A Challenge in Any Care Facility published by the Annals of Internal Medicine which reviews the best way to care and also protect healthworkers from filoviruses such as Ebola. The article discuss what needs to be included in preparation drills as well as discussing the type of biocontainment facility that is required.

Below is a recent Ebola advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee released for clinicians working in secondary or tertiary care. The content again is technical but is worth a read to see the information being provided to our healthcare workers.

Download (PDF, 1006KB)

New Camel Proof Fences Provide Safer Airstrips to Remote Australia

This tweet from Latika Bourke alerted me to the press release (reprinted at bottom of post).

tweet on camel fences

While she may have been joking about the title of the release, it is serious stuff for us out bush.

Imagine the RFDS is landing to take a seriously ill patient away at 3AM. You switch on the runway lights, or perhaps light the kerosene pots and place out along the strip. You do a strip run to make sure there is nothing on the airstrip. You hope the sound of the troopie scares off the roos and camels that may be nearby. But you can never be sure in the dark of what is there.

At least now we can be sure the camels are not near the strip.

Media Release
Eight isolated communities now have access to improved air services following $2.29 million in infrastructure upgrades to their airstrips provided by the Gillard Government’s Remote Aviation Infrastructure Fund.

Completed upgrades range from new camel proof fencing to freshly rolled runways, replaced windsocks and solar lighting.

Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King, said the improvements provide the remote communities of Kaltukatjara in the Northern Territory and Warakurna, Jameson, Patjarr, Wanarn, Papulankutja, Warburton and Wingellina in Western Australia, with safer and more reliable access to vital air services.

“Safe, operational aerodromes, and the air services they support, play a vital role in connecting remote communities with each other and with major regional towns and cities,” Ms King said.

“The upgrades we have undertaken in these communities are designed not only to improve the reliability of access to remote communities through improved airstrips, but also allow the people living in these areas to have access to food, mail and medicine.

“This is particularly important where road access is unavailable, unreliable or disrupted for extended periods due to extreme seasonal weather conditions.

“These communities are located up to 1,050 kilometres from Alice Springs, so they are dependent on air services to survive,” Ms King said.

The completion of these upgrades is part of a broader program of works to airstrips throughout remote Australia, funded through the Regional Aviation Access Program.

Ms King said the eight aerodromes that received the upgrades were identified for their importance in servicing remote communities.

To assist with providing more remote airstrip infrastructure upgrades, the Gillard Government allocated an additional $26 million in the 2011–12 Budget, taking the total commitment to $43 million over three years to 2013.

Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal People in NSW

During the recent election campaign the Australian Labor Party agreed to “look at” then finally decided to back a proposal to amend the constitution’s preamble to recognise Australia’s Indigenous people.

The negotiations between the Australian Labor Party and the independents to hold onto power led to the following agreement:

At the beginning of each sitting day, prior to prayers, the Speaker will make an acknowledgement of country

to recognise Indigenous Australians.

However they seem to be way behind NSW in this. The New South Wales Parliament on 8th September 2010 amended their Constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as the first people in the state.

The NSW Parliamentary library released an e-brief in July 2010 titled “Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal People” (full download below) which in part says:

For the purpose of honouring and recognising the unique historical position of Aboriginal people, the NSW Government proposes to amend the Constitution Act 1902 (NSW) by the insertion of a new section 2A. The proposed section reads as follows:

  • (a) The People and Parliament of New South Wales acknowledge and honour the Aboriginal people as the first people and nations of the State, and
  • (b) The People and Parliament of New South Wales recognise that Aboriginal people have a spiritual, social, and cultural relationship with their traditional lands and waters and have made a unique and lasting contribution to the identity of New South Wales.
  • (c) Nothing in this section creates in any person any legal right or gives rise to any civil cause of action, or affects the interpretation of this Act or any other law in force in New South Wales.

The Constitution of NSW presently does not have a preamble, nor does it have other express recognition of Aboriginal People. As the Constitution is an Act of Parliament it may be readily amended by an amending Act and this has been done over 80 times since 1902.

Download (PDF, 862B)

A Load of Pertussis

old phot of vaccinationCanada has a travel advisory for California. A health advisory on pertussis (whooping cough).

In most countries pertussis is a notifiable illness. This year California has had a sevenfold increase in pertussis notifications. All other states have declined a little or remained about the same as last year.

I imagine a lot more people from Canada travel to California to Australia and a sevenfold increase sounds quite a lot. The number of notifications up to 24th August was 3,311. Checking all current health advisories from Canada shows no current health advisory for Australia yet Australia has about 2000 notifications for pertussis each month.

Year to date figures (5th September) show Australian pertussis notifications for this year have reached 14865 (and probably will be lower than last year’s number of 29737). If we look at it another way Australia has so far had 14865 pertussis cases for around 22 million people with California having 3311 cases for 36 or so million people.

This table from the Department of Health (2005 figures the latest I could find a comparison) shows it very clearly.

Most recent notification rates per 100,000 population for frequently notified vaccine preventable diseases, by country of residence

Why haven’t the Canadians issued a travel advisory against Australia. As an Australian I feel ignored!. Perhaps they are worried about 3311 notifications all packed close together in a state only twice as big as Victoria, our second smaller state.

But enough joking.

Pertussis is a life threatening condition. In Australia sixty per cent of all notifications are in the over 20 age group. With a vaccination schedule including vaccination for pertussis at 2, 4, 6 months and 4 years of age (some states have a booster at school) babies under six months of age are at highest risk (21% of notifications in 2008) due to partial immunisation. Between 1993 and 2006 there were 21 deaths in Australia caused by pertussis. 17 of these were in infants less than twelve months of age.

There is some good information here and here(PDFs).

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