Experts explain why strict hand hygiene couldn’t be sustained

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |

With the zeal of hand washing going down months into coronavirus disease transmission in the country, experts have stated that it was inevitable as people were only acting in shock following announcements of a strange killer disease.

Hand hygiene alone is touted as having the ability to keep away many pathogens including the previous coronaviruses that have affected other countries and the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the the virus was confirmed in the country, many people including politicians and religious leaders came out to demonstrate how proper handwashing is done.

Around that time, the Ministry of Health said that the percentage of those that wash hands that has always staggered around 30 percent had increased to slightly above 50 percent. Now, experts worry that we have gone steps back even as the virus continues to transmit with the country having over 700 infections currently.

Dr Richard Mugambe, a lecturer in Makerere University’s Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health says that sustaining hand hygiene would have been possible if implementer’s of the initiative adopted a behavioral model to strategize on how this behavior that’s not deeply entrenched in the community continues.

Dr Fredrick Oporia, an epidemiologist and currently a disease control research fellow at Makerere University School of Public Health says that observing how people are washing hands, only a few use the recommended quantities and spend the recommended time of 20 seconds washing their hands.

In public places like markets, business centres and other facilities, notes that at the height of the scare, people had put in place facilities which have only remained as a shield to protect them from enforcement officers.

However, David Katwere Ssemwanga, the Technical Assistant of Uganda Sanitation Fund in the Ministry of Health said that the Ministry has made it mandatory for all households and business premises to have wash facilities although they are still challenged with enforcement something they hoped could be made stronger by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognizing that people even in crowded city places have gone back to their past, he said they plan to come up with more stringent measures but only after ensuring that there’s considerable access to safe water for all. He says their interventions have started with health facilities where they are now availing them foot-operated handwashing facilities with funding from UNICEF.

Even in these facilities, he acknowledged that not all have water in place but the plan is to avail them water such that individual facilities can provide themselves soap. But as initial focus on sustainable handwashing facilities goes to health facilities, key crowded places like markets and business areas pose a big risk of infection.

For instance, in Kikuubo, Kampala’s major business hub, one of the administrators Sam Bafirawala Muyomba tells URN that to be able to do some bit of handwashing at the all-time crowded centre, they buy about 60 jerry cans of water at a fee of 500 Shillings each.

He admits they are conducting their handwashing on the principle of something is better than nothing, not as WHO recommends.

By The Independent
Published June 17, 2020
https://www.independent.co.ug


Demand for Hand Sanitizers and Disinfectants Increasing as the Pandemic Concerns Grow

The global hand sanitizer market is projected to grow from USD 1.2 billion in 2019 to USD 2.14 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 7.5% during the forecast period 2019-2027, according to a report from FiorMarkets. It said that the growing demand for wellness and health products with a rising rate of diseases has increased the demand for hand sanitizer market. Also, increasing awareness about hand hygiene is driving the need of sanitizers. Hand sanitizer plays a considerable role in maintaining hand hygiene. The rising advertisement on social media has exposed people to current trends of hygiene, healthy lifestyle and personal care, which increase the use of hand sanitizers. A unique benefit of using hand sanitizer is that it reduces the risk of respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infection. The demand for hand sanitizers is increasing, with the growing coronavirus crisis rapidly across the globe. With the outbreak of the global pandemic, the need for hand sanitizers has quadrupled and an increase in the overall growth of 16x from December 2019 to March 2020. In addition to this, to prevent the infectious diseases, many people prefer hand sanitizers, further contributing to the growth of the market. Furthermore, an increase in awareness about personal hygiene among the people, driving the growth of the market. However, high usage of hand sanitizer can kill the good bacteria of the human body, which leads to the occurrence of diseases, may hamper the growth of the market.” Active companies in the markets this week include NxGen Brands Inc. (OTCPK: NXGB), The Clorox Company (NYSE: CLX), The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE: PG), iBio, Inc. (NYSE: IBIO), Moderna, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA).

The article from FiorMarkets continued: “North America dominated the global hand sanitizer market and valued at USD 420.25 million in the year 2019. The presence of key market player across the region is one of the primary contributors to the growth of the market. High awareness about hygiene among the people, also driving the growth of the market in the North America region. However, with the Covid-19 outbreak, the demand for hand sanitizer has been upsurge, and the region is feeling the shortage of hand sanitizers in the countries such as the U.S. and Canada. Thus, the state governments are pushing the manufacturing companies to boost the production of hand sanitizers in the region. On the other hand, the Asia Pacific region is projected to grow at the highest CAGR of 10.25% over the forecast period. India is experiencing the almost ten-fold demand for hand sanitizers, with increasing cases of coronavirus in the country.

NxGen Brands Inc. (OTCPK: NXGB) BREAKING NEWS: NxGen Brands (NXGB) Newly Added PPE And FDA Registered Cleaning and Disinfectant Product Lines to Its Portfolio – NxGen Brands announces the addition of a full product line of commercial, industrial, and residential cleaning supplies, disinfectants, and sanitizers.

NxGen Brands, Inc newly added line of products consist of proprietary and licensed formulations registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and that follow Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines in their composition and production for human interaction. These products have specific formulations designated for commercial, industrial, and residential markets. Some of the intended markets include bars, restaurants, schools, hotels, casinos, factories, various sectors of the travel industry, and the individual consumer given that NxGen Brands has developed the capability to provide options for purchase orders in a variety of sizes ranging from personal-use product quantity to 300 plus gallon totes.

Angel Burgos, CEO and President of NxGen Brands, commented, “We have been identifying diligently over the course of the past several months to offer the public a new addition to our already existing and popular product lines. This new addition started out with our interest in high end topicals for pain management and condition treatment, which eventually lead to hand sanitizer, and ultimately brought us around full circle to put us where we need to be, and that is at the front line of our customers’ needs. That is why we are now offering, what we anticipate being, a well-received and highly demanded line of health-focused products, which are all manufactured and processed in the USA. Currently we are setting up operations on global sales platforms such as Amazon and Shopify which gives our prod exposure to millions of potential customers with both commercial and private needs. We anticipate that both the marketplace and our shareholders will be thrilled with our innovations and new additions.”

Products included in the commercial, industrial, and residential cleaning supplies, disinfectants, and sanitizers can be seen at our newly updated Corporate Website: www.nxgenbrands.com and for more information or to make bulk purchases, please contact by phone (888) 315-6339 or email sales@nxgenbrands.com.

Other recent developments in the markets include:

The Clorox Company (NYSE: CLX) recently announced that on Monday, Aug. 3, it will host a live audio webcast of a discussion with the investment community about its fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2020 results. The webcast is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET). A replay of the webcast will be available on the company’s website.

The Clorox Company is a leading multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer and professional products with approximately 8,800 employees worldwide and fiscal year 2019 sales of $6.2 billion. Clorox markets some of the most trusted and recognized consumer brand names, including its namesake bleach and cleaning products; Pine-Sol® cleaners; Liquid-Plumr® clog removers; Poett® home care products; Fresh Step® cat litter; Glad® bags and wraps; Kingsford® charcoal; Hidden Valley® dressings and sauces; Brita® water-filtration products; Burt’s Bees® natural personal care products; RenewLife® digestive health products; and Rainbow Light®, Natural Vitality™ and NeoCell® dietary supplements. The company also markets industry-leading products and technologies for professional customers, including those sold under the CloroxPro™ and Clorox Healthcare® brand names. Nearly 80% of the company’s sales are generated from brands that hold the No. 1 or No. 2 market share positions in their categories.

The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE: PG) recently announced a hygiene education and product donation initiative to help reach the estimated 48 million kids under the age of 121 that are reentering playgrounds, parks, recreational facilities and schools in the U.S. this month. Safeguard will donate $10 million to promote handwashing habits among kids and provide more underserved communities and families with free hygiene products through organizations including Save the Children, Americares, and Feeding America.

With the national surge in demand of hand hygiene products, Safeguard is introducing new hand soaps and sanitizers that wash away bacteria and germs into US retail stores. The brand expects to increase manufacturing capacity to 45,000 liters of hand sanitizer per week once fully operational.

iBio, Inc. (NYSE: IBIO) a biologics contract manufacturing organization and biotechnology company, recently announced that IBM Watson Health has selected iBio to receive 18 months of use of the IBM Clinical Development (ICD) solution, free-of-charge.

IBM Watson Health recently began offering its ICD solution to eligible trial sponsor organizations as part of its efforts to help support the medical community to address the COVID-19 pandemic. IBM Watson Health has received interest in the offering from numerous hospitals, sponsors, contract research organizations and academic institutions, and is currently enabling 15 COVID-19 disease trials.

Moderna, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA) a clinical stage biotechnology company pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients, recently announced the publication of an interim analysis of the open-label Phase 1 study of mRNA-1273, its vaccine candidate against COVID-19, in The New England Journal of Medicine. This interim analysis evaluated a two-dose vaccination schedule of mRNA-1273 given 28 days apart across three dose levels (25, 100, 250 µg) in 45 healthy adult participants ages 18-55 years, and reports results through Day 57. Results from participants in the initial dose cohorts who received both vaccinations and were evaluated at pre-specified timepoints reaffirm the positive interim data assessment announced on May 18th and show mRNA-1273 induced rapid and strong immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. The study was led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Published PALM BEACH, Florida, July 16, 2020
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Astonishing growth in Hand Hygiene Monitoring Market Business Opportunities and Global Industry Analysis by 2026 – Top Companies Halma plc, Yamabiko Corporation, BioVigil Healthcare Systems, Inc., Deb Group Ltd., GOJO Industries, Inc

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By sales@researchnreports.com
Published: July 12, 2020

https://3wnews.org


Stop using any alcohol-based hand sanitizer on FDA list

“Young children may accidentally swallow these products. But teenagers or adults may intentionally swallow these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute.”

When hand hygiene was increasingly emphasized some years ago with the emergence of drug-resistant “Super Bugs” like Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA), emergency departments and clinics began placing containers of alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs (ABHSR) in every patient room.

It did not take long before there were reports of “patients” who signed in for evaluation, but left before they were seen by a clinician after they had spiked their drink container with some of the hand sanitizer that was mostly ethanol.

More recently, as we fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, most commercially available alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs contain either ethanol or isopropanol (commonly called rubbing alcohol) as active ingredients.

However, last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised consumers not to use any hand sanitizer manufactured by “Eskbiochem SA de CV” in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol (commonly called wood alcohol) as an active ingredient.

This toxic alcohol can cause blindness and/or death when absorbed through the skin or when swallowed.

Since then, the FDA has identified additional ABHSR products that contain methanol and is working with manufacturers and distributors on a voluntary recall of these products. However, some people may already have one of these products in their homes.

If you have any alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs, you should do the following:

Seek immediate medical attention and contact the poison center (1-800-222-1222) for advice if an ABHSR product has been swallowed or symptoms developed after repeated use of a product that is on the FDA’s testing and manufacturer’s recalls list — fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitzers-methanol
Stop using any ABHSR that is on the FDA’s list because using these methanol-containing products may result in serious adverse health events, including blindness and/or death. Dispose of it immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour it down the drain.

Never swallow ABHSR or use them for anything other than their intended purpose.

Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs out of reach of children and supervise their use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed with the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center that seven patients had serious health issues after they were said to have consumed alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs.

Significant blood methanol concentrations were detected in all patients. Four of them died. Three became critically ill, one of whom recovered with loss of vision.

The CDC also confirmed with the Arizona Department of Health Services that the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center reported an additional six patients who are said to have swallowed alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs. This caused critical illness and at least one case of permanent blindness.

It is clear that hand hygiene is an important part of the response to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic virus. So, do not let this news stop you from practicing good hand hygiene, which can include using alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs.

This is just a warning to check the products you use to make sure they are not on the FDA list at the website noted above. Repeated use of those products on the skin may result in methanol poisoning. However, the highest risk for methanol poisoning is by swallowing products containing methanol.
It should be remembered that young children may accidentally swallow these products. But teenagers or adults may intentionally swallow these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute.

The effects of methanol and ethanol poisoning are similar, including headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination and decreased level of consciousness. However, methanol poisoning may result in severe metabolic acidosis, blindness and can be deadly if untreated.

Treatment of methanol poisoning includes supportive care, administration of an alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitor, and may even require hemodialysis.

We all know that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” which applies to both methanol poisoning and the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, maintain six feet of social distance, wear a mask (especially when you cannot maintain that six foot buffer), use good hand hygiene, stay home when you are sick, and go outdoors when you can. Protect the most vulnerable among us. Stay safe and healthy.

By Dr. Terry Gaff
Published Jul 12, 2020
https://www.kpcnews.com


Controlling COVID-19: hand hygiene must be accessible to all

UNICEF and the World Health Organization have launched the ‘Hand Hygiene for All’ joint initiative to help control the spread of COVID-19.

In a bid to control the spread of the novel COVID-19 infection the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization have launched a new join initiative ‘Hand Hygiene for All’ to help make hand hygiene accessible to all, including the least developed countries that have a lack of hygiene facilities.

Hand Hygiene for All

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, made a statement on the launch of the initiative. “As the world struggles to cope with a new disease, one of the most effective tools to prevent its spread is also one of the most basic. Hand hygiene has never been more critical, not only to combat COVID-19, but to prevent a range of other infections. Yet, nearly six months since the onset of the pandemic, the most vulnerable communities around the world continue to lack access to basic hand hygiene.

“According to our latest data, the majority of people in the least developed countries are at immediate risk of COVID-19 infection due to a lack of hand hygiene facilities. In the 60 highest-risk countries, two out of three people – 1 billion people in total – lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home. Around half are children.

“All too often, schools, clinics, hospitals and other public spaces also lack hand hygiene facilities, putting children, teachers, patients and health workers at risk. Globally, two in five healthcare facilities do not have hand hygiene at points of care. We cannot overstate the threat.

“Many of the those who lack access to basic handwashing live in overcrowded, desperately poor conditions. Even before the pandemic, children and families faced barriers to accessing health and hygiene services. Now the grave risk of COVID-19 threatens further suffering and spread of this deadly disease.

“If we are going to control COVID-19, we have to make hand hygiene accessible to all. That is why we are launching a new global initiative to move the world towards the same goal: supporting the most vulnerable communities with the means to protect their health and environment.

“We are joining our efforts with those of other international partners, national governments, public and private sectors, and civil society organisations to ensure affordable products and services are available, especially in disadvantaged areas, and to enable a culture of hygiene.

“Public health response plans and reopening plans should couple physical distancing and other control measures with hand hygiene and access to safe water and sanitation, and must reach the most vulnerable communities.

“Our teams are developing comprehensive country roadmaps and committing human and financial resources to support global and local implementation efforts. Task teams will facilitate learning and knowledge exchange, while multisector stakeholders will strengthen hygiene programming and monitor global progress. Leaders and community mobilisers will advise on strategies and advocate for their implementation. Only together can we achieve universal hand hygiene.

“We must also ramp up investment in hygiene, water and sanitation, and in infection prevention and control. We urge countries to scale up, systemise and institutionalise hand hygiene and commit to strengthening the enabling environment, supply vital products and services, and to actively promote hygiene practices as part of a package of actions that save lives.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an uncomfortable truth: too many people around the world simply cannot clean their hands. But we can help to reduce the spread, and we can prevent future infectious diseases from following a similar path. It starts by making sure everyone, everywhere has access to basic hand hygiene facilities with soap and clean water or alcohol-based products in homes, schools and healthcare facilities.”

 

Published


Decline in foodborne outbreaks likely due to COVID-19 measures

More than four times fewer suspected food and waterborne epidemics have been reported in Finland in the past few months.

Between March and May, four suspected foodborne outbreaks were reported, compared with an average of 18 in previous years, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The agency believes this is because of the coronavirus pandemic and associated limitations and recommendations. When hands are washed diligently and food is prepared for smaller groups, there are fewer epidemics, the THL reported.

Suspected pathogens in the four outbreaks are Campylobacter, Yersinia, and norovirus.

Ruska Rimhanen-Finne, an epidemiologist at THL, said as summer comes, cooking and eating out will increase.

“The most important way to avoid food poisoning also applies in summer: always wash your hands thoroughly before cooking and eating. Also remember to wash vegetables, cook meat and take care of good food handling and storage practices.”

A common picture
More than 130 foodborne outbreaks were recorded in Finland between 2014 and 2016, according to an earlier report published in 2019.

Norovirus remained the most common agent and was responsible for 42 outbreaks. There was one Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and five Campylobacter outbreaks reported in that period.

The picture in Finland reflects reports elsewhere. Rates of Campylobacter and Salmonella infections in Australia have fallen since a lockdown was imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts in the United Kingdom and Ireland urged caution in interpreting a decline in foodborne illness figures during the coronavirus outbreak as an actual drop in infections while a Dutch report found people are paying more attention to hygiene in the kitchen.

Researchers at the National Food Institute in Denmark are testing a hypothesis that Danes’ increased focus on hand hygiene and changes in what they eat and who prepares the food will lead to a decrease in foodborne illness cases.I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

 

By Joe Whitworth
Published June 17, 2020
https://www.foodsafetynews.com


The One Mistake You Shouldn't Make When Washing Your Hands. How you dry your hands is equally as important as how you wash them.

Washing your hands should always be part of your personal hygiene, but it’s especially important now, amid the coronavirus pandemic. One of the first guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined how to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. While you probably have the hand-washing part down, we bet you’ve made this one crucial mistake when drying your hands: You’re using a cloth towel instead of a paper towel.

Because paper towels are thrown away, there’s less risk of cross-contamination, unlike reusable towels. According to commercial bathroom products supplier One Point Partitions, “If multiple people use the same cloth towel to dry their hands and one of them hasn’t cleaned their hands appropriately or they touched a contaminated surface before they dried their hands, every subsequent person who uses the same towel will pick up germs during the hand drying process.”

One Point Partitions adds that “because users will throw out their paper towels after they dry their hands, paper towels don’t have the same risk of cross-contamination.” The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends that you use single-use towels to dry your hands.

Once you’re done drying off, “use a paper towel to touch any surfaces—doors, faucets—in the bathroom before exiting,” Taylor Graber, MD, a resident physician at UC San Diego, previously told Best Life.

This last step is essential as faucet handles and doorknobs are two of the dirtiest touch points.

In fact, the faucet handles in your kitchen and bathroom contain so much bacteria that they were ranked the sixth germiest place in your home, according to the National Sanitation Foundation. And for more hygiene errors you should avoid, here’s how You Haven’t Been Rubbing in Your Hand Sanitizer Correctly, CDC Says.

By Chelsea Bengier
Published June 15, 2020
https://bestlifeonline.com


Soap business set to boom in coronavirus aftermath; other hygiene items also promising, says HUL

Soap business presents a massive business opportunity in the aftermath of coronavirus as more and more people adopt hygiene practices and become conscious of health concerns.

Coronavirus,handwashing access, covid 19 risk, COVID transmission, coronavirus cases in india, latest news on coronavirus outbreak.

Soap business presents a massive business opportunity in the aftermath of coronavirus as more and more people adopt hygiene practices and become conscious of health concerns. “While growth rates and usage rates of the past two to three months may not sustain, the HUL management seems confident in the opportunity for volume momentum and premiumization momentum being much stronger than it has been in recent years,” a Motilal Oswal report said citing Sanjiv Mehta, MD, HUL. Further, other home cleaning and hygiene-related products such as detergents are also expected to boom in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

HUL also said that while market growth may not be under their control during the coronavirus outbreak, competitive growth is. “Big brands die when they do not reinvent and remain contemporary, an exercise in which HUL has succeeded for the majority of its portfolio in recent years,” the report said. The company had started to ramp up the production of soaps, sanitizer and hand washes under its in-house brand Lifebuoy as early as March, even before the government had implemented nationwide lockdown.

While FMCG sales in general remained down in the month of April and May, sales of evolved hygiene categories such as hand wash, hand sanitizer and floor cleaners continued to grow in lockdown phase I, according to a report by market research firm Nielsen. Many new companies also entered the hand wash and hand sanitizer segment after major demand and supply gaps arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. Dabur, Nykaa, Emami, Nivea, ITC also recently debuted into manufacturing of sanitizers for both commercial and charity purposes.

Meanwhile, HUL recently completed the acquisition of GSKCH. The merger comes at a time when customers are increasingly seeking health and immunity-boosting products. “With GSKCH’s strong proposition on nutrition, the current scenario acts as a tailwind for the HFD category,” the report said. During the pandemic, the sales of immunity boosting products has seen a spike with another FMCG player Dabur reporting 400% sales jump of its chyawanprash range in last quarter.

By: Prachi Gupta | Published: June 15, 2020
https://www.financialexpress.com


European Commission awards Resani Seal of Excellence for Covid-19 Response

Press Release: Oslo, Norway, 08.06.20

The European Commission has awarded Resani the Seal of Excellence for its Horizon 2020 proposal with relevance to addressing the challenges of Covid-19 and recommends the proposal for funding. The Seal of Excellence is a quality label, co-signed by the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, and by Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, and is awarded only to proposals deemed excellent and evaluated worth of funding.

In a highly competitive process, consisting of more than 4000 proposals that were submitted under the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilot for Covid-19 Response in March 2020, Resani was one of 230 applicants invited to present our project before an international panel of independent experts, and was scored as “a high-quality project proposal” and despite qualifying for funding, the European Commission could not grant Resani’s proposal funding given the limited resources available for the call.

However, we are very proud to have received the Seal of Excellence from the European Commission, and because of it, we are more motivated than ever and see this as a great validation for our vision to reshape the global approach to hand sanitisation and to better equip and shield our societies against Covid-19 and future viral outbreaks. We remain confident that we will find the perfect partners within the next weeks and months that will help us in the final steps in bringing Resani’s technology to the world; a world that is in desperate need of new accessible, reliable and sustainable hand sanitisation technology that will help save lives.

Stay tuned!

For more information, please contact:
Ingvild M.S. Løken
CEO
Email: isl@resani.com

resani.com


Physical distancing and good hand hygiene: Australian flu cases drop by more than 99%

There were only 208 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza nationwide last month – compared to 30,567 at the same time in 2019.
The major disparity follows a trend that has seen a massive decrease in cases since social distancing measures were implemented across Australia in response to the coronavirus.

In the first two months of 2020, Australia was on track to surpass its record-breaking start to 2019, before cases essentially halved in March compared with the same time last year. This was followed by an even more dramatic 98% drop in April, when only 307 laboratory-confirmed cases were recorded compared to 18,691 in the corresponding period in 2019.

Dr Kerry Hancock, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Respiratory Medicine network, told newsGP she was ‘incredibly surprised’ by the results and described the fall in cases as ‘dramatic’.

‘We’re seeing now in the influenza statistics the impact that [good hygiene and social distancing] can have in reducing transmission,’ she said.

‘It just tells us the value of physically distancing, good hand hygiene, avoiding mass gatherings [when sick], cough etiquette and being aware of all those other strategies to avoid the transmission of infectious diseases.

‘Maybe it’s not the way we want to spend our lives – not being able to attend concerts and the movies and gather in crowds – but it certainly shows that we can make a difference by at least implementing some of these strategies [in the longer term].

‘Once again, Australia can be really proud of the fact that we’ve done what we’ve been told to do with regard to COVID-19.’

The drop in laboratory-confirmed flu cases is matched by data in the FluTracking surveillance system, which uses crowd-sourced information from upwards of 70,000 people each week who report whether or not they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

The most recent report, from the week ending 31 May, found flu-like illness activity in Australia is ‘historically low’, with only 0.38% of respondents having a fever and cough. It also shows almost identical rates of flu-like symptoms between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

Dr Evan Ackermann, past Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC), told newsGP the trend seems to support findings from the Cochrane Reviews, which stress the importance of good hygiene in limiting the spread of influenza.

‘We always used to say it but now people are living it,’ he said.

‘People in public places are not only washing their hands, but they’re quarantining when sick, and many are using a face mask when in public. It really is something that I hope is going to lead to some long-term behavioural change.

‘The vaccine doesn’t last that long – it produces an immunological response but that wanes over time. What these figures suggest is that these non-drug interventions do work.’

Dr Ackermann also said it is an important reminder to educate patients on the value of hygiene when it comes to protecting themselves against viral infection.

‘For the majority of the population, improved personal hygiene options are more likely to be effective than just receiving a flu vaccine,’ he said.

‘This has important implications in how we advise and educate our patients. The evidence suggests promoting other measures may be more beneficial among low-risk populations.’

By Matt Woodley
Published 05 Jun 2020
https://www1.racgp.org.au