Australian news, and some related international items

Is Australia getting a second wave of Coronavirus?

As coronavirus cases rise in Victoria, how do we know when a second wave is starting?  ABC  By Casey Briggs 20 June 20  The curve has been flattened, nay crushed, and we’re slowly getting back to normal.

But we’re left with the fear that all the hard work we’ve done could be undermined by a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, Australia has registered more than triple the locally acquired cases of the previous week, and almost all of them are in Victoria.

In the past seven days there were 21 community transmission cases where a source of infection can’t be found, up from just six the week before, although health authorities may yet find a source for some of these.

A big second wave of infections isn’t inevitable, but the possible consequences could be huge, and it’s worth doing as much as possible to avoid it.

So how would we know if Australia is about to start rising up another curve?

Facing a second wave

That’s precisely what occurred in the last global pandemic on this scale: the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Its second wave was more severe than the first outbreak.

But that doesn’t mean we should expect the same thing this time around.

Associate Professor Hassan Vally from La Trobe University says there are some big differences between the influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

We know that influenza viruses prefer winter, and they also mutate much more dramatically than SARS-CoV-2.

“For the Spanish flu, what you saw was the seasonal effect of the virus actually disappearing,” Dr Vally says.

“Then it came back and what people speculate is that it had taken a pretty significant mutation… [it] was more virulent and caused all of the damage.”SARS-CoV-2 has not been mutating anywhere near as quickly.

“So what people are referring to as a second wave here is not actually a second wave,” he says. “It’s not going to disappear and then come back in a different form, the way influenza does.”

That makes things a little more predictable, but it doesn’t stop the possibility of a resurgence……….

In Australia, it helps that infections were down to a trickle when restrictions started to be eased. Iran’s best day in the pandemic still saw far more cases recorded than on Australia’s worst.

The more a virus has spread within a community when shutdowns end, the higher the chance of a second serious outbreak.

Nonetheless, the Federal Government has been desperate to avoid a new wave of infections, fearing both the public health cost and the damage it will do to businesses that have already endured lengthy shutdowns.

Where many countries are now trying to cope alongside the virus, Australia wants to keep it suppressed.

The warning signs

Dr Katherine Gibney from the Doherty Institute and Royal Melbourne Hospital says the chance of a resurgence will increase if community transmission rates pick up.

When there are a lot more cases, and a lot of them don’t have an identified source, is the time that you’d think there’s a lot of transmission going on in the community that you haven’t detected,” Dr Gibney says.

“At the moment I definitely don’t think we’re there.”

The country-wide slowdown bought health authorities important time to build testing and hospital capacity. That vastly improves the country’s chances of catching the further outbreaks before it is too late.

But of course all outbreaks start somewhere, and Australia has seen a small lift in locally-acquired cases this week. ……..

Spotlight on Victoria

Most of Australia’s cases are being imported from overseas, but Victoria in particular is still uncovering cases of community transmission.

Victoria’s public health authorities have conceded the higher levels of community transmission do make them “nervous”……….

Some community transmission is to be expected, but the state hopes this week’s numbers will stabilise.

“If we have case numbers like we’ve had in the last couple of weeks bubbling along that would be manageable,” she said.

More restrictions are due to be lifted in the state on Monday. ………

June 20, 2020 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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