Skip to main content

What exactly happened?

The blood glucose level testing devices used in COVID-19 accommodation before 20 August were intended for use by one person. Instead, they were used across multiple people.

The body of these devices can retain microscopic amounts of blood. Cross contamination may occur if used on multiple people and there is a low risk of transmission of blood borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B and C, and HIV. 

There is no risk to those who used their own personal device to test their blood glucose level.

There is no risk to people who did not have a blood glucose level test.

The devices were removed from use in COVID-19 accommodation in August.

How many people have you contacted?

Of about 20,500 people who passed the quarantine accommodation before 20 August 2020, we identified 1700 people who may have had the test. 

The Department of Health has successfully contacted 1500 people, and most were found to have used their own device and were not at risk, or did not have the test. 

To date, 275 people have been referred for follow up testing, with no positive results related to this incident.

If you believe or are unsure if you had this test, please call 1800 356 061.

Why were these devices still a risk if the needle has been changed? 

The device is designed to be used by one person repeatedly.  

While the lancet is changed between use, the reusable part of the device can retain microscopic amounts of blood. This is not an issue if used for the one person. But this is where the cross-contamination risk lies if used across multiple people.

What were these devices used for? Who were they used on?

These devices are mostly used to test blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. However, most people with diabetes will have their own device and would not have required a device to be supplied during quarantine accommodation. 

The test may also be used for pregnant women, someone who fainted or for people who are generally unwell.

If you believe you had this test - and we have not been able to contact you - please call 1800 356 061.

There is no risk to those who used their own personal device to test their blood glucose level.

There is no risk to people who did not have a blood glucose level test.

How would I have been given this test?

A blood glucose level test involves a finger prick to get a drop of blood.

Most likely, this test would have been done by a nurse or doctor. But you or a family member may have been given a device to do the finger prick test yourselves.

If you believe you had this test - and we have not been able to contact you - please call 1800 356 061.

Clinical risk of transmission

What is the risk of contracting a blood borne virus like this?

The clinical risk is low. However, we will arrange confidential precautionary screening for you if you are at risk.

To date, 275 people have been referred for follow up testing, with no positive results related to this incident.

There is no risk to those who used their own personal device to test their blood glucose level.

There is no risk to people who did not have a blood glucose level test.

Could this have spread coronavirus (COVID-19)?

No, coronavirus (COVID-19) is not transmitted by blood.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is liver inflammation that can be caused by a virus. Different strains of hepatitis virus exist. Hepatitis B and C are both viral infections that attack the liver and have similar symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, pain in the joints, nausea, vomiting and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Hepatitis B and C are both spread through contact with blood that contains the virus. Neither Hepatitis B or C can spread through coughing, breast milk, sharing food or hugging an infected person. 

Hepatitis C is now curable with a short course of tablets. Hepatitis B is treatable and vaccination can protect close contacts.

Read more about:

What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that can weaken the immune system to the point that it is unable to fight off simple infections. HIV is not the same as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). 

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection when the immune system is at its weakest and a person has several specific illnesses. AIDS is now very rare in Australia as HIV treatments effectively protect the immune system from the virus. HIV-positive people on sustained treatment regimens are commonly able to maintain their viral load at low or undetectable levels and can remain healthy.

In Australia, HIV is most commonly transmitted through anal or vaginal sex without condoms or other protection methods, such as PrEP (an HIV prevention drug) or ‘undetectable viral load’ (when a person being treated for HIV has very low levels of the virus in their body). It is much less commonly transmitted through sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment.

Read more about HIV

The review

Which COVID-19 accommodation sites were these devices used at?

For completeness, we looked at all COVID-19 accommodation sites to make sure we identified anyone who was potentially exposed.

How was this risk identified? 

This was identified through an initial review by Alfred Health in August, and reported to Safer Care Victoria in September 2020. We worked with independent experts to confirm the risk of cross-contamination, reviewed all resident health records and established screening programs for at-risk residents. Finalised in December 2020, the review report has now been released.

Why were these devices being used in COVID-19 accommodation?

The review found that the quarantine accommodation program was set up so quickly that important clinical governance was not established. That is, there was no guidance, training or oversight to help team leaders or registered nurses understand these devices were not appropriate for use on multiple people.

SCV has made 13 recommendations from its review. All have been accepted and have been implemented or are in progress. Read the report

If you would like to contact the review team, please email BGLreview@safercare.vic.gov.au 

Page last updated: 01 May 2021

Was this content helpful to you?