Coronavirus Qld: The team that confirms positive testing

Coronavirus Qld: The team that confirms positive testing

This man and his team have one of the most challenging tasks in Queensland’s fight against the coronavirus scourge. LEAVE YOUR TRIBUTES

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Leading the public health response to COVID-19 contact tracing in Brisbane’s Metro South health region, Dr Jarvinen and his team face one of the greatest challenges with the virus by overseeing the largest population catchment in Queensland.

After a busy six months handling a record year of measles cases in 2019, with associated contact tracing in the Metro South Health catchment – followed by water quality issues at Tangalooma Island – Dr Jarvinen is preparing his team for marathon, not a sprint.

“It’s unusual and challenging times for the whole of society, and certainly for us it’s a very different working environment for us,” he said.

Dr Kari Jarvinen’s team makes contact with those who have tested positive to coronavirus.

“Because we aren’t actually working in the frontline and dealing directly with patients with stethoscopes or checking people’s temperatures, we are kind of hidden, but I think our work is very much frontline trying to keep new infections down and preventing them.

“These people know they’ve been tested for COVID-19, so they’re waiting for the result so we lead on from there and say ‘you got the testing done through whichever hospital fever clinic or GP and you may not know it yet, but unfortunately it is positive’.”

The team will then start responding and allocating particular people to follow up on cases, find out about their clinical condition and whether they need to be transferred to hospital quickly while also working out in detail when their illness started to determine their contact tracing period or the time when the person may have been infectious.

Their team, which normally sits at about 35 people has expanded to over 90 people, with more people starting soon to help with the influx of cases.

An internal Metro South curve is also being analysed and monitored to allow the team to better understand the outbreak.

Dr Jarvinen, who has worked for Queensland Health for over 15 years, said he has never seen anything like COVID-19.

“The closest we’ve had in living memory was the swine flu pandemic in 2009,” he said.

“This (COVID-19) is bigger, its going to be longer, its going to be more hard hitting.

“We are being reminded and trying to remind ourselves that this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon so we need to make sure we keep going because its not going to stop next week or next month.

“Our job is to help really on the forefront to try and flatten the curve and that’s all about contact tracing … that’s the main part of our job.”

The team are relentlessly working through a “blur” of days in an effort to trace every person who has had contact with a confirmed case.

“They’re exhausted and getting a bit tired but there is good morale and just pulling together and knowing this is the job we’re here to do … its an invaluable and very hard working team,” Dr Jarvinen said.

“Other diseases like the influenza are still here and its very important to get the flu vaccines – we don’t want both COVID and flu and please do stay home.”