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


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, Lessons learnt from the first large outbreak of COVID-19 in health-care settings in Tasmania, Australia, Western Pacific Surveillance and Response Journal, 12, (4) pp. 1-7. ISSN 2094-7321 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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© WHO WPRO 2021

DOI: doi:10.5365/wpsar.2021.12.4.884


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 positive tests for SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid. These were the first recognized cases in an outbreak that overwhelmed the hospitalís ability to function.

Context: The outbreak originated from two index cases. Both had returned to Tasmania following travel on a cruise ship and required 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 close contacts.

Action: The outbreak was controlled through the identification and isolation of cases, identification and quarantining of close contacts and their household members, closure of the affected facilities and community-level restrictions to reduce social mixing in the affected region.

Lessons learnt: Factors that were likely to have contributed to ongoing transmission in this setting included workplace practices that prevented adequate physical distancing, attending work while symptomatic, challenges in rapidly identifying contacts, 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. The lessons learnt from this investigation changed work practices for HCWs and led to wider public health interventions in the management of potential primary and secondary contacts.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:COVID-19, outbreak, health-care settings
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Epidemiology
Research Field:Epidemiology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Johnston, FH (Professor Fay Johnston)
UTAS Author:Marfori, T (Dr Therese Marfori)
UTAS Author:McPherson, M (Ms Michelle McPherson)
UTAS Author:Smith, KJ (Dr Kylie Smith)
UTAS Author:Stephens, N (Dr Nicola Stephens)
ID Code:148338
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Medicine
Deposited On:2021-12-23
Last Modified:2022-01-07
Downloads:7 View Download Statistics

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