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Lessons learnt from the first large outbreak of COVID-19 in health-care settings in Tasmania, Australia


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Johnston, FH ORCID: 0000-0002-5150-8678, Anderson, T, Harlock, M, Castree, N, Parry, L, Marfori, T, McPherson, M ORCID: 0000-0003-2707-2138, Veitch, M, Smith, KJ ORCID: 0000-0003-2793-3460 and Stephens, N ORCID: 0000-0002-7952-4581 2021 , 'Lessons learnt from the first large outbreak of COVID-19 in health-care settings in Tasmania, Australia' , Western Pacific Surveillance and Response Journal, vol. 12, no. 4 , pp. 1-7 , doi: 10.5365/wpsar.2021.12.4.884.

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Problem:One month after the initial case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Tasmania, an island state of Australia,two health-care workers (HCWs) from a single regional hospital were notified to public health authorities following positivetests for SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid. These were the first recognized cases in an outbreak that overwhelmed the hospital’sability to function.Context: The outbreak originated from two index cases. Both had returned to Tasmania following travel on a cruise ship andrequired hospital admission for management of COVID-19. A total of 138 cases were subsequently linked to this outbreak:81 HCWs (most being nurses) and 23 patients across three hospitals, one resident of an aged-care facility and 33 closecontacts.Action: The outbreak was controlled through the identification and isolation of cases, identification and quarantining of closecontacts and their household members, closure of the affected facilities and community-level restrictions to reduce socialmixing in the affected region.Lessons learnt: Factors that were likely to have contributed to ongoing transmission in this setting included workplacepractices that prevented adequate physical distancing, attending work while symptomatic, challenges in rapidly identifyingcontacts, mobility of staff and patients between facilities, and challenges in the implementation of infection control practices.Discussion: Many commonly accepted hospital practices before the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the outbreak. Thelessons learnt from this investigation changed work practices for HCWs and led to wider public health interventions in themanagement of potential primary and secondary contacts.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Johnston, FH and Anderson, T and Harlock, M and Castree, N and Parry, L and Marfori, T and McPherson, M and Veitch, M and Smith, KJ and Stephens, N
Keywords: COVID-19, outbreak, health-care settings
Journal or Publication Title: Western Pacific Surveillance and Response Journal
Publisher: World Health Organization * Regional Office for the Western Pacific
ISSN: 2094-7321
DOI / ID Number: 10.5365/wpsar.2021.12.4.884
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© WHO WPRO 2021

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