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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.”

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Health News

Time for action on a NSW Autism Strategy

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Time for action on a NSW Autism Strategy

 

STATE Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin says she welcomes the Australian Government’s recent release of the Draft NSW Autism Strategy.

Ms Saffin says “it provides the State and Territory governments with the opportunity to engage with the Draft National Autism Strategy.

“We need a NSW Autism Strategy and I have had discussions with the relevant Minister in the Minns Labor Government, Kate Washington,” Ms Saffin says.

“I raised the importance of an autism strategy in the NSW Parliament last year. South Australia is way ahead of us.  Now we have the Draft National Autism Strategy, we need to seize the momentum and get a New South Wales strategy to break down barriers for autistic children and adults and their families.”

President of the Northern Rivers Autism Association Micheal Lynch has teamed up with Business NSW Northern Rivers Regional Director Jane Laverty to co-host an Autism@Work business luncheon at the Ballina RSL Auditorium from noon today (Tuesday, 9 April).

The event, titled Embracing a Neurodiverse Workforce, celebrates Autism Awareness Month and guest speaker will be former dual-code international for rugby league and rugby union Mat Rogers.

Ms Saffin says she will be an apology as she is recovering from Covid.

“A panel of speakers for today’s event is sure to discuss the Draft National Autism Strategy,” Ms Saffin says.

“It is clear from the draft that the states and territories and Federal Government need to work together because the strategy covers polices across both levels of government.

“The states have primary responsibility for the key areas of education, health, justice and housing.

“It is the states that have responsibility for pre-schools for example, where children are at critical age for early intervention which can make a huge difference.

“This is an opportunity for National Cabinet to tackle the crossover of responsibilities and ensure that this is an effective, properly funded strategy without gaps for people to slip through.

“Being in a rural or regional area can add another layer of disadvantage, so it is important that people from this region give their feedback to the national strategy.”

For more information on the Draft National Autism Strategy and to give feedback, visit here.

 

For more health news, click here.

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AI-Powered MedTech Breakthrough: CSIRO and Singular Health Unveil Revolutionary Spinal Vertebrae Segmentation Technology

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An example of spinal segmentation software. CSIRO

AI-Powered MedTech Breakthrough: CSIRO and Singular Health Unveil Revolutionary Spinal Vertebrae Segmentation Technology

 

A groundbreaking AI-powered medical technology, developed through collaboration between CSIRO‘s Data61 and Australian Medical Imaging Company Singular Health, swiftly segments spinal vertebrae with an impressive 95% accuracy rate within a mere two minutes. This innovation holds the promise of revolutionising surgical planning and facilitating the design of customised implants for medical professionals.

Traditionally, the segmentation of spinal vertebrae in computerised tomography (CT) scans has demanded extensive manual labour, involving countless hours of meticulous identification and markups. However, the advent of AI automation heralds a transformative shift in this arduous process, significantly reducing time and effort while ensuring exceptional segmentation precision and localisation accuracy, as elucidated by Dr. Dadong Wang, Research Lead at Data61.

Singular Health’s Executive Director of Innovation, Dr. Guan Tay, underscores the game-changing potential of this automated segmentation technology. By integrating AI-driven automation into the segmentation process, medical professionals will now only need to make minor adjustments and validate the software’s outputs. This semi-automated approach empowers surgeons and radiologists to fine-tune the results according to their interpretations, ensuring meticulous compliance with image analysis standards while substantially streamlining processing time.

The utilisation of artificial intelligence in medical imaging, particularly in radiology, stands poised to profoundly reshape workflow dynamics for radiologists.

Leveraging a comprehensive dataset comprising over 200 CT scans of labelled data, the Data61 team meticulously explored various AI models and pre-processing techniques to achieve precise instance segmentation, labelling, surface meshing, and spatial localisation of individual vertebrae.

Dr. Wang elaborates on the AI development process, highlighting the adaptation of deep learning-based instance segmentation methodologies such as nnUNET, SC-NET, and Dense-NET. These models were rigorously trained using the VerSe’2020 dataset, comprising 100 CT scans of spines from individuals spanning diverse age groups and genders. Subsequently, the trained models underwent rigorous testing on an additional 100 CT scans, generating segmented labels of the spine, individual vertebrae, spatial coordinates, and vertebra identification.

The integration of this cutting-edge technology into Singular Health’s MedVR software represents a significant milestone, offering a transformative solution for hospitals, clinicians, educational institutions, and universities alike. This milestone achievement was made possible through the CSIRO Kick–Start initiative, which extends funding and support to innovative Australian start-ups and small businesses, granting access to CSIRO’s unparalleled research and development (R&D) expertise and capabilities.

 

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Northern Rivers Business Community gets behind Autism Awareness Month

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Autism Awareness Month

Northern Rivers Business Community gets behind Autism Awareness Month

 

Aprils is National Autism Awareness Month where recognition raises awareness about autism acceptance and promotes inclusion and connectedness for people with autism.  Social and community support can help people with autism achieve optimal health and reach their full potential.

Business NSW Northern Rivers is co-hosting the Autism@Work Business Luncheon with the Northern Rivers Autism Association on Tuesday 9 April 2024 in Ballina as part of Autism Awareness Month and the official launch of the Northern Rivers Autism Association.

“Micheal Lynch, Chair of the Association has been working tirelessly with our team on this event and we hope to demonstrate the support we can put behind such a great initiative to embrace a neurodiverse workforce in our region.”  Said Jane Laverty, Regional Director Business NSW

The luncheon will feature guest speaker, Mat Rogers a dual code international with a prominent career in both rugby league and union.  After a stella career representing Queensland, the Kangaroo’s and the Wallabies, Mat finished his career back in the NRL with the Gold Coast Titans, retiring in 2011.

With his wife, Chloe Maxwell, Mat is devoted to the charity they established, 4ASDKIDS, after discovering their son was autistic, so they could help other families with autistic children.

“We are excited to have Mat lead the conversation along with an expert panel sharing thoughts on the amazing value we can bring to our businesses and employees with a neurodiverse workforce and inclusive workplaces.”  Mrs Laverty said.

“This is going to be an inspiring event and an opportunity for Micheal Lynch to share his vision for the Association.  The Northern Rivers business community is looking forward to being part of this month of awareness raising and promoting inclusion and acceptance.

The expert panel includes:

  • Luke Terry, CEO of Whitebox Enterprises/Beacon Laundry (located in Bangalow and newly formed social enterprise)
  • Andrew Cashin, Professor of Autism and Intellectual Disability with Southern Cross University
  • Samantha Albertini, Senior Manager People & Culture with Social Futures
  • Jodi Rogers, locally based counsellor (Birds & Bees) who has just authored a book called Unique – what Autism Can Teach Us about Difference, Connection and Belonging

“Most of us know someone on the spectrum and know that autism can be a superpower.  With more than ¾ of Australians on the spectrum being young (between 5 and 24) it is important that we look at how our workplaces can adapt for neurodiverse people and enable greater inclusivity.”

 

For more health news, click here.

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