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Safer Care Victoria is undertaking a broader review to examine what happened, how it happened and why.

Until that review is complete, we are not able to answer all the questions you may have. But we have included what we can below.

What is the issue? 

We are contacting residents who had their blood sugar levels tested while in quarantine accommodation before 20 August. This is due to an identified risk of cross-contamination. 

There is a low risk of transmission of blood borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B and C, and HIV. Although this risk is low, the consequences are clinically significant and it is important to screen all guests who may have been exposed.

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.

The clinical risk of this low.

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.

Why are 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.

For completeness, we have identified not only those who had the test, but those with conditions that may require blood glucose levels to be taken. 

If you believe you had this test - and we have not contacted you yet - 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 contacted you yet - please call 1800 356 061.

I think my partner/friend/child had this test done while in COVID-19 accommodation. Should they be tested?

Anyone who had a blood glucose test using a supplied device while in quarantine accommodation should be tested. 

If you know someone who had this test before 20 August, please encourage them to call 1800 356 061.

I was working in the COVID-19 accommodation program. Am I at risk?

We have contacted employers and asked them to alert you to this issue. 

If you believe you who had this test while at work before 20 August, 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.

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.

I had a blood glucose test while I was staying in COVID-19 accommodaton. Could I have caught Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV?

The chance of this is low for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. 

There are no reports to date of any residents contracting a blood borne virus while in quarantine accommodation. 

However, if you are at risk, we recommend that you get tested as soon as possible so you can be sure.

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

Precautionary screening

I’ve been called by the department/Alfred Health. How did you get my details?

The Department of Health and Human Services and Alfred Health are supporting the Safer Care Victoria review.
For investigations such as this, the department is authorised to access COVID-19 accommodation records to address potential risks to public health. As there is a potential risk to residents, we were able to access your records and contact details.

We will protect your privacy and confidentiality. All information is confidential and protected by legislation, so it is only shared where necessary, and only with authorised relevant people. If you would like further information on the department’s privacy policy, please call 1800 356 061.

How do I get tested? 

Alfred Health will arrange testing for you. 

Some people may need to have a second blood test, depending on when you had your last finger prick taken in quarantine accommodation, to make sure you have not been infected. Clinicians from Alfred Health will discuss the appropriate tests and timing with you. 

As these diseases already exist in the community, it is possible that a few cases will be found but are not necessarily linked to this issue. However, detection is the first step to appropriate treatment.

When will I get my test results? 

We will talk you through when you are likely to receive your results and whether you are able to receive the results over the phone. It can take a matter of days.

What happens if I choose not to get tested?

There is no obligation to be tested. 

However, if you do not get tested you will not know if you have been infected with a blood borne virus. We will not be able to rule out the possibility of you having been infected as a result of any exposure in this case. 

Most people infected with blood borne viruses can live a normal and healthy life if treated appropriately. Without treatment, these diseases can be very serious and lead to long-term health issues.

Will the test cost me anything?

We do not intend anyone to pay out-of-pocket expenses. Where bulk billing is not available, the department will reimburse any related medical expenses. Please talk to your GP to bulk bill. If you incur any out of pocket expenses, please call the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss payment options on 1800 356 061.

What happens if someone has contracted a blood borne virus?

If an infection is acquired, we will provide clinical follow up and treatment where available. 

We will also arrange counselling and support.

What if my test is positive for any of these diseases?

There is a small possibility that your test will be positive. Your doctor (and the department) will provide you with support to make sure you receive the right treatment.

The department will investigate to determine if you have contracted one of these diseases as a result of this exposure or if there is another reason for you having contracted it.

If an infection is acquired we will provide clinical follow up and arrange counselling and support.

New treatments have greatly improved the outcomes for people with blood borne diseases.

It is important to talk with your doctor about treatment options.

If a someone has contracted a virus, is there a risk they could pass it on? 

The risk of having contracted a virus is low.

If residents have acquired an infection, they may be at risk of transmitting these to their sexual contacts. Talk to your sexual partner about this and consider practising safe sex until you have spoken to the Alfred or your GP. DHHS promotes safe sex always when you are unsure of your partner's blood borne virus status or if you have more than one partner.

What about my partner? 

We understand you may be concerned about your partner/family/friend, but the most important thing right now is for you to get tested. 

The risk that you have contracted any of the viruses is low. And blood-borne viruses are not spread by ordinary social or family contact such as hugging, shaking hands, sharing household items or through toilets seats, swimming pools or pets.  

These viruses do not live long outside the body. They can be transmitted via unprotected sex.

Talk to your sexual partner about this and consider practising safe sex until you have spoken to the Alfred or your GP. DHHS promotes safe sex always when you are unsure of your partner's blood borne virus status or if you have more than one partner.

The review

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

For completeness, we are looking at all COVID-19 accommodation sites to make sure we identify 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. Since then, we have been working with independent experts to confirm the risk of cross-contamination, review all resident health records and establish screeninng and support programs for at-risk residents.

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

Safer Care Victoria is looking into this as part of our review.

How many people have potentially been exposed?

As of 19 October we have identified 243 people who had a blood glucose level test, of the 20,500 residents in quarantine accommodation from 29 March to 20 August. 

We are contacting these people now.

How long with this broader review take?

We aim to finalise our findings and recommendations by December.

Can I provide input to the review?

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

Page last updated: 20 Oct 2020

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