Australia reports first human-to-human coronavirus transmission, total cases now 39

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has started to gain momentum over the past week, spreading to 77 countries, including Australia. The number of confirmed cases in the country has reached 39, with ten new cases reported in Queensland.

'MERS Coronavirus Particles
"MERS Coronavirus Particles" by National Institutes of Health (NIH) is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Tasmania has also reported its first coronavirus case, a man arriving in Tasmania on Saturday from Iran. He was experiencing symptoms and contacted the Public Health Hotline, where testing was arranged. The man had been in self-quarantine but was transferred to the Launceston General Hospital, where he is now being clinically managed. The man arrived in Launceston on Virgin flight VA-1368, which left Melbourne at 1:10 pm and landed in Launceston at 2:15 pm. Importantly, anyone who was on that flight and is feeling unwell should contact the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

In Queensland, health officials have reported the 10th case, a 20-year-old male student from China, who arrived in Brisbane via Dubai.  Dr. Jeannette Young, Queensland Chief Health Officer, said authorities are looking into where the man may have contracted the disease.

"The male has recently returned to Brisbane, and we are working closely with relevant authorities to undertake contact tracing." Dr. Young said.

"The male lived with one other housemate in Toowong. We are in contact with the male's housemate, who is undergoing assessment."

With the patient's diagnosis, the 11th case is not very far away. Though the patient is in a stable condition in the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, doctors are closely monitoring him.

All the cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Queensland, except the 63-year-old woman who came from Iran, have recovered and been discharged from the hospital.

The health experts warned that the new cases in the country are inevitable, and it is vital for the government to take precautionary measures to ensure the virus does not spread.

As of 3 March 2020 in Western Australia, there are two confirmed cases associated with the Diamond Princess cruise ship. On 1 March the first coronavirus related death in Australia was reported, in a 78-year man from WA, who was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.  An additional 713 Western Australians have been tested for COVID-19 in WA have returned a negative result.

Human-to-human transmission

Australia has reported cases of human-to-human transmission of the deadly coronavirus. Health officials in New South Wales are now tracing all contacts of a health worker who has recently tested positive for coronavirus. The healthcare worker is 53 years old, and one of the two cases of human-to-human transmission.

In NSW, there are three confirmed cases, two of which are human-to-human transmission. The first patient is a health worker in Sydney, and the other patient is a 41-year-old woman who has contracted the virus from her brother, who came from Iran.

What the government is doing

Aside from laying down a plan in case the outbreak reaches Australia, the government can hold Australians once they manifest the symptoms of the coronavirus. Attorney-General Christian Porter has reiterated that the powers used to detain people at airports can be used elsewhere in the country.

The Biosecurity control orders give government officials who were designated by the chief medical officer to make a human biosecurity control order. For instance, all persons under investigation or those showing symptoms may need to provide contact details, update officers about their health status, undergo decontamination, limit movement by staying in the house for a specific time, provide samples for testing, undergo treatment or receive a vaccine, be isolated in a medical facility and remain in the country for up to 28 days.

If a person refuses, there is a power granted to the director of the program to compel the individual to comply.

Current global situation

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has spread to more than 76 countries. The epicenter of the outbreak, Hubei province, has the highest number of infections and deaths. The total number of confirmed cases worldwide has reached over 92,000, and the death toll has reached 3,000 people.

Currently, three hotspots are being closely monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO) – South Korea, Iran, and Italy. The WHO reports six new countries with coronavirus cases – Dominican Republic, Iceland, Czechia, Armenia, Luxembourg, and Indonesia. The health agency has also sent health experts to Iran to support the COVID-19 response.

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.


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