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Health News

Covid-19 reinfections add to the risk of acute complications and long Covid

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Covid-19 reinfections add to the risk of acute complications and long Covid

Regular screening with very highly sensitive rapid antigen tests are a key factor in reducing transmission

In the early days of the pandemic, it was rare to hear of people catching Covid twice. The Omicron variant that emerged in late November has changed that.

As new variants have emerged, and immunity from previous infection and immunisation has reduced, reinfection with Covid-19 is becoming increasingly common. Some people have been infected four times in the past two years.

A study published in March from the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis found the risk of reinfection has “increased substantially”. This is supported by research from scientists at Imperial College, London that reports the chance of testing positive again is 5.4 times greater with Omicron than Delta.

And now there are several omicron variants circulating around the world, all of which are highly transmissible and very good at overcoming immunity, whether it’s from vaccination, prior infection or both. These omicron variants don’t just evade the protection one may have gained from a non-omicron version of SARS-CoV-2; they make it possible to catch the newer variants of omicron even if the infected person has had the original omicron variant before.

According to a report from July 8, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee acknowledge that reinfections can occur as early as within 28 days and has adjusted the reinfection period from 12 weeks to 28 days.

Of more concern however, is the theory that reinfections may, in fact, be enhancing the disease, where a misfiring immune response to the first infection exacerbates the second. In dengue fever, for example, antibodies to an initial infection can help dengue viruses of another serotype enter cells, leading to a more severe and sometimes fatal second infection. And in other diseases, the first infection triggers ineffective, non-neutralising antibodies and T cells, hampering a more effective response the second time around.

Repeatedly catching Covid-19 appears to increase the chances that a person will face new and sometimes lasting health problems after their infection.

Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist and chief of research and development at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System compared the health records of more than 250,000 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 one time with records from 38,000 others who had two or more documented Covid-19 infections. More than 5.3 million people with no record of a Covid-19 infection were used as the control group.

Among those with reinfections, 36,000 people had two Covid-19 infections, roughly 2,200 had caught Covid-19 three times and 246 had been infected four times. Common new diagnosis after reinfections included chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, inflammation of the heart muscle or the sac around the heart, heart failure and blood clots. Common lung issues included shortness of breath, low blood oxygen, lung disease and accumulation of fluid around the lungs.

The study found that the risk of a new health problem was highest around the time of a Covid-19 reinfection, but that it also persisted for at least six months. The increased risk was present whether someone had been vaccinated or not, and it was graded – meaning it increased with each subsequent infection.

Al-Aly said there is this idea that if you have had Covid before, your immune system is trained to recognise it and is more equipped to fight it, and if you’re getting it again, maybe it doesn’t affect you that much – but that just isn’t true. What this study shows is that each infection brings new risk, and that risk accumulates over time.

Even when viruses shape shift – as influenza does – our immune system generally retains its memory of how to recognise and fight off some part of them. They may still make us ill, but the idea is that our prior immunity is there to mount some kind of defence and keep us from serious harm. With coronaviruses, and especially SARS-Cov-2 coronaviruses, the hits just keep coming.

Already there’s another omicron subvariant that has caught the attention of virologists: BA.2.75 was first detected in India in early May. Since then, it’s been found in Europe, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. The chief scientist with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Soumya Swaminathan, has said that BA.2.75 appears to have mutated in a way that could indicate “major immune escape” but it’s too soon to know whether it will overtake BA.5 as the dominant variant.

Graham Gordon, Founder and CEO of Gardian, an Australian-based MedTech company that has developed a robust, and verifiable Covid screening program that effectively eliminates Covid ingress onsite said: “We understand pandemic fatigue, but the virus is not done with us.

“Unfortunately, many people are viewing the pandemic as part of the fabric of modern life rather than an urgent health emergency. There is a significant resurgence, and we’re seeing increasing numbers of infections. Clearly this is a global concern.”

Australia is nearing the numbers of Covid hospitalisations and daily deaths it saw during the January peak, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. As Covid hospitalisations increase, it strains other areas of the health system. And beyond the direct suffering of such a massive outbreak, there are likely to be economic disruptions as tens of thousands of people become too sick to work.

“We are already being warned that a new batch of variants could come out of the blue,” said Gordon. “So, if you are at higher risk of serious illness or just want to avoid getting sick, it’s a good time to be wearing a N95 mask in public and using a rapid antigen test that has a low level of detection (LoD) so that you can detect infection prior to becoming infectious.

“The same precautions used to prevent infection over the past two years are as relevant today as they have always been – wearing masks, social distancing, vaccinations, and a robust screening process are still necessary – and they work just as well for avoiding reinfection.”

Health News

New Study Predicts Nearly 100% Increase in Cases by 2054

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Increase in dementia Cases

New Study Predicts Nearly 100% Increase in Cases by 2054

 

New data from Dementia Australia indicates that the prevalence of dementia is set to nearly double by 2054. According to research conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on behalf of Dementia Australia, dementia rates are projected to increase by 93% by 2054.

In 2024, Australia has over 421,000 individuals living with various forms of dementia. Without medical advancements, this number is anticipated to escalate to 812,500 by 2054, as cautioned by Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM.

McCabe emphasised the significance of these findings in informing strategies for service provision and funding to address the evolving needs associated with dementia. She stressed Dementia Australia’s commitment to supporting those affected, encouraging individuals and their families to seek assistance via the National Dementia Helpline, available 24/7.

New data from Dementia Australia indicates that the prevalence of dementia is set to nearly double by 2054

New data from Dementia Australia indicates that the prevalence of dementia is set to nearly double by 2054

The study highlights a nationwide trend of rising dementia diagnoses over the next three decades, with varying degrees of growth across states and territories. Western Australia is projected to experience the highest increase at 109%, followed by the Northern Territory (106%), the Australian Capital Territory (104%), Queensland (100%), Victoria (96%), and South Australia (59%), with Tasmania exhibiting the lowest growth at 52%.

Catherine Daskalakis, a Dementia Advocate at Dementia Australia diagnosed with younger onset dementia, underscored the importance of accessing Dementia Australia’s support services. Reflecting on her own experience, Daskalakis encouraged individuals to reach out to the National Dementia Helpline, emphasising the invaluable emotional support and counselling it provides during challenging times.

For more details about dementia prevalence data, see here.

 

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Government Grants $50 Million for Australian Scientists Pioneering World’s First Long-Term Artificial Heart

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BiVACOR Total Artificial Heart

Government Grants $50 Million for Australian Scientists Pioneering World’s First Long-Term Artificial Heart

 

In a landmark initiative poised to revolutionise cardiovascular medicine, Australian scientists are spearheading the development of the world’s first long-term artificial heart. With a significant boost from the federal government, which has pledged a grant of $50 million towards the project, researchers are advancing towards a transformative breakthrough in cardiac care.

The artificial heart, conceptualised as an off-the-shelf alternative to organ donation, holds immense promise for patients suffering from end-stage heart failure. For individuals like Jayden Cummins, whose life was irrevocably altered by a viral infection that led to severe heart deterioration, the prospect of a long-term solution represents a beacon of hope.

Cummins, a Sydney-based filmmaker, vividly recounts his battle with heart failure, attributing it to a viral assault that left him operating at a mere 7 percent heart function. While he underwent a temporary solution with a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) followed by a heart transplant, his journey underscores the critical need for innovative interventions to address the scarcity of donor organs.

Enter Dr. Daniel Timms and his team of bio scientists, who’s pioneering BiVACOR Total Artificial Heart promises to be a game-changer in the field of cardiac medicine. Unlike conventional devices that mimic the pumping action of the natural heart using balloons prone to wear and tear, the BiVACOR heart utilises magnetic levitation technology to propel blood circulation efficiently.

Dr. Timms elucidates on the innovative design, likening it to the magnetically levitated trains in Japan and China, which ensure smooth and frictionless motion. Supported by a multidisciplinary team, including Associate Professor Shaun Gregory of Monash University’s Artificial Heart Frontiers Program, the project unfolds with regular visits to the local hardware store, where components for heart replication are sourced.

The journey from laboratory bench tops to animal testing has yielded promising results, with the titanium hearts demonstrating remarkable durability and efficacy. Human trials are slated to commence in the United States later this year, marking a significant milestone in the quest for a viable long-term solution to heart failure.

BiVACOR Total Artificial Heart

BiVACOR Total Artificial Heart

Professor Garry Jennings from the Heart Foundation of Australia underscores the urgency of such innovations, citing the stark reality of organ shortages and the pressing need for alternatives. With heart failure claiming one in 50 Australian lives annually and a limited number of heart transplant procedures performed each year, the advent of artificial hearts offers a lifeline to countless patients awaiting salvation.

The federal government’s generous funding injection signals a resounding vote of confidence in Australia’s scientific prowess and commitment to advancing medical innovation. With hopes pinned on accelerated progress, scientists aim to make these groundbreaking devices available to patients within the next few years, heralding a new era of cardiac care.

For transplant recipient Jayden Cummins, the potential impact of these advancements is profound. Reflecting on his journey post-transplant, Cummins marvels at the newfound lease on life, cherishing precious moments with loved ones made possible by the gift of a donor heart. His story serves as a poignant reminder of the transformative power of medical innovation and the enduring spirit of resilience in the face of adversity.

As Australia embarks on this bold frontier of medical innovation, the promise of artificial hearts offers solace to those grappling with the debilitating effects of heart failure, embodying the triumph of human ingenuity and compassion. With each beat of progress, the collective hope is for a future where life-saving technology transcends boundaries, enriching and extending lives with boundless possibility.

KEY FACTS:

  1. Revolutionary Technology: The BiVACOR Total Artificial Heart represents a groundbreaking advancement in cardiovascular medicine. Unlike conventional devices that mimic the pumping action of the natural heart using balloons prone to wear and tear, the BiVACOR heart utilises magnetic levitation technology for efficient blood circulation. This innovative design, inspired by magnetically levitated trains in Japan and China, promises enhanced durability and efficacy, offering hope to countless patients grappling with end-stage heart failure.
  2. Government Funding: The federal government’s pledge of $50 million towards the project underscores its commitment to advancing medical innovation and improving healthcare outcomes. This substantial investment not only signifies confidence in Australia’s scientific prowess but also accelerates progress towards making artificial hearts available to patients within the next few years. Such funding injections play a pivotal role in driving research initiatives and fostering collaboration between academia, industry, and government entities.
  3. Human Impact: Jayden Cummins’ personal journey serves as a poignant testament to the transformative potential of medical innovation. Having navigated the harrowing challenges of end-stage heart failure and subsequent transplantation, Cummins embodies resilience and hope. His story highlights the profound impact of artificial hearts on patients’ lives, offering a lifeline to individuals awaiting organ transplantation. Through advancements in medical technology, Cummins and countless others find solace and renewed optimism for the future, underscoring the profound human dimension of scientific progress.

 

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Health News

Northern NSW Health District Welcomes Record New Graduates

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Nurses and Midwives Northern NSW

Northern NSW Health District Welcomes Record New Graduates

 

In a significant boon to local health services, over 190 graduate nurses and midwives are set to commence work within the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) this year, contributing to the enhancement of healthcare provision in the region.

The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) is poised to experience a substantial influx of fresh talent as more than 190 graduate nurses and midwives prepare to embark on their professional journeys within its healthcare facilities. Across the state, this cohort represents a portion of the over 3,400 graduate nurses and midwives set to join the NSW public health system, underscoring the government’s commitment to bolstering the state’s healthcare workforce.

Expressing gratitude to the incoming graduates for their dedication to the noble profession, Katharine Duffy, Director of Nursing and Midwifery at NNSWLHD, emphasised the pivotal role these new recruits will play in delivering high-quality and compassionate care to patients across a diverse range of clinical settings. The graduates will have the opportunity to gain invaluable experience not only within hospital settings but also in community healthcare, thus contributing to the holistic healthcare landscape of the region.

Ms. Duffy further highlighted the district’s commitment to nurturing and supporting these new graduates, emphasising the presence of dedicated mentors and teachers who will guide them in their professional development and specialisation. Moreover, the district is proud to offer these new staff permanent roles, reflecting its dedication to cultivating a sustainable local health workforce.

Nurses and Midwives Northern NSW

the first cohorts who commenced orientation this week in the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed-Byron regions

The NSW Government’s comprehensive strategy to fortify the state’s health workforce includes various initiatives such as implementing safe staffing levels in emergency departments, making permanent over 1,100 nursing roles, abolishing wage caps, and providing record pay increases for healthcare workers. Additionally, the government is expanding recruitment efforts in regional, rural, and remote communities and enhancing incentives for healthcare professionals, including increased subsidies for tertiary health study and attractive salary packaging options.

Aspiring nurses and midwives interested in pursuing careers within the NSW public health system are encouraged to explore opportunities and resources available through the NSW Health website, further underscoring the government’s commitment to fostering a dynamic and robust healthcare workforce.

SIDEBAR:

  1. Record Number of New Nurses: Northern NSW Health District has welcomed over 190 new graduate nurses and midwives, marking a significant addition to the local healthcare workforce.
  2. Boost to Healthcare Services: The influx of new graduates will provide crucial support to Northern NSW’s health services, enhancing patient care across various clinical settings and community healthcare.
  3. Government Initiatives: The NSW government’s initiatives to strengthen the healthcare workforce include implementing safe staffing levels, creating permanent nursing roles, and offering financial incentives to attract and retain healthcare professionals.

 

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