The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is calling on the federal government to urgently set up a national centre for disease control to better manage outbreaks like the coronavirus.
AMA president Tony Bartone said while an established centre for disease control (CDC) would not have “changed anything” about the response to the coronavirus outbreak, it would help manage future threats to our biosecurity.
“It wouldn’t have changed anything in our responsiveness to the coronavirus. We’re doing everything that needs to be done, but we still are still firmly committed on calling for a CDC,” Dr Bartone told The New Daily.
For years, the AMA has argued that Australia “urgently” needs a CDC to: “provide national leadership and to co-ordinate rapid and effective public health responses to manage communicable diseases and outbreaks”.
“The current approach to disease threats and control of infectious diseases relies on disjointed state and commonwealth formal structures, informal networks, collaborations, and the goodwill of public health and infectious disease physicians.”
We’re also lagging behind every other OCED country, which all have national centres, Dr Bartone said.
“A CDC has numerous benefits. It’s important to have a central approach to dealing with various measures and [a CDC] would have the breadth to combat biosecurity risks that we’re likely to encounter,” he said.
“We don’t know the various different outbreaks that will ensue. So far, so good, but biosecurity risks vary and are continually changing and emerging.”
Fifth case confirmed
On Monday a 21-year-old woman was confirmed as the fifth person in Australia to contract the virus, which has claimed the lives of 80 people in China and infected 2744.
The woman, who studies at the University of NSW, arrived at Sydney Airport on Thursday from the epicentre of the disease and subsequently developed symptoms and tested positive.
She is being held in isolation in hospital.
NSW Health said the woman had no high-risk contact with other people.
“There are just a couple of low-level contacts we are currently tracing,” NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said.
There are growing fears that cases will escalate, with China’s health minister saying the country was entering a “crucial stage” as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger”.
Some schools in NSW are contacting parents, warning them that if they have been in China, their children will need doctors certificates before starting the year.
The Scots College, Kambala School and Newington College issued the warning, while the NSW Department of Education encouraged principals to “monitor children and staff closely for any strange illnesses”.
Western Australian chief health officer Andrew Robertson said on Monday they were monitoring four people also suspected of contracting the disease.
“These adults all meet specific travel criteria,” Dr Robertson said.
“The risk to the Western Australian community remains low.”
The World Health Organisation has said it’s too early to declare the virus a global health emergency.
“Make no mistake, this is, though, an emergency in China,” said Tedros Adhanom, director-general of the WHO.
“But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”