Key messages

The following notices have been issued to advise Victorians of existing or potential issues that pose risk to health and wellbeing. This would typically include information from the Commonwealth (for example, DOHA or TGA) in relation to medication or therapy issues, changes to legislation or documents released by key stakeholders.

  • Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment and human health
  • Potential dangers of medical tourism
  • Hyperbaric chambers
  • Changes to regulations for notifiable conditions
  • Hospitals alerted to antibiotic resistant bacteria that require heightened infection control measures


Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment and human health

16 March 2018

PFAS from fire-fighting activities at RAAF Base East Sale have migrated into the Heart Morass located to the south of the base. An interim human health risk assessment has shown elevated PFAS levels in ducks and fish at the Heart Morass. The Environment Protection Authority has issued precautionary public health advice for people to not consume fish, ducks and eels caught from the Heart Morass wetlands, due to these high levels of PFAS. EPA has extended this advice to include the adjacent Dowd Morass wetlands due to duck migration patterns.

EPA update on Heart Morass PFAS affected ducks

Further information may also be found at the Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) information page, the Commonwealth Health Department website and on the Department of Defence website.

Potential dangers of medical tourism

29 January 2018

Victoria's Chief Health Officer is advising Victorians to be aware of the potential dangers of medical tourism, after a Victorian Coroner issued a warning in December 2017.

The warning followed a finding on the death of Victorian man Leigh Aiple, who had travelled to Malaysia for cosmetic surgery in 2014.

Travelling to another country for medical treatment, including surgery or dental care, is known as medical tourism.

A number of professional groups, including the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons have warned about the risks associated with medical tourism.

The Commonwealth, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, also warns about the potential hazards of overseas elective medical treatment.

People can be motivated by a number of reasons to travel overseas for medical care, including because of cost. However, there are a number of potential dangers.

Standards of medical and surgical practice may not be equivalent to care provided in the Australian health care system. Flying overseas can also contribute to the dangers, because of an increased risk of blood clots that can lead to the potentially fatal condition of pulmonary thromboembolism.

People who are admitted to overseas hospitals are at risk of serious infection with antibiotic-resistant organisms, also known as superbugs. Surgical complications or prolonged hospitals stays may also lead to enormous financial costs. Finally, receiving surgery overseas can separate Victorians from the normal support provided by family and loved ones.

For further information about the potential dangers of medical tourism please visit the Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller website

Unregulated traditional medicines

23 October 2017

Unregulated complementary medicines such as some traditional folk medicines, may not be manufactured to the same quality as regulated medicines and can therefore cause adverse health effects including toxicity and drug interactions.

Chief Health Officer Advisory: Unregulated traditional medicines

Hepatitis B and immunosuppression (including rituximab)

2 August 2017

People living with chronic hepatitis B are known to be at risk of reactivation of hepatitis B infection and severe flares of hepatitis in the setting of immunosuppression. Australian and international guidelines recommend that all patients be offered testing for current or resolved hepatitis B infection before undergoing immunosuppression.

In addition, when undergoing profound immunosuppression, people with past, resolved hepatitis B infection (HBsAg negative but anti-HBc positive) can also experience reactivation of hepatitis B infection with severe - and sometimes life-threatening - flares. While this can occur in a number of contexts, it has particularly been observed in the setting of chemotherapy for lymphoma when including the anti-cancer monoclonal antibody, rituximab. Use of rituximab in this setting has been shown to be associated with deaths due to severe (fulminant) hepatitis B.

A case of probable hepatitis B reactivation in a HBsAg negative individual receiving rituximab (in addition to other immunosuppressive therapy) for an auto-immune condition has been reported to the Department. In addition to features of acute hepatitis, this probable reactivation also resulted in the transmission of hepatitis B to a susceptible household contact who developed acute hepatitis B.

Chief Health Officer Advisory: Hepatitis B and immunosuppression

Zostavax® and at risk patients

3 March 2017

The shingles vaccine Zostavax® has been provided free for 70-79 year olds since November 2016. Zostavax® is contraindicated in patients who are immunocompromised.

Administration, where contraindicated, has resulted in a death in Australia. Do not administer Zostavax® to patients who are immunocompromised.

Chief Health Officer Advisory: Zostavax® and at risk patients

Victorian guidance on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

15 August 2016

The department has developed the Victorian guidance on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to provide medical practitioners with information on antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP for the prevention of HIV transmission.

The Department recommends that medical practitioners who prescribe PrEP use this guidance document in conjunction with the Sexually Transmissible Infections in Gay Men Action (STIGMA) Group’s testing guidelines and the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine national PrEP guidelines to ensure a high standard of sexual health care is provided when prescribing PrEP.

Hyperbaric chambers

15 July 2016

A joint safety alert about hyperbaric chambers has been issued by Worksafe Victoria and the Department of Health & Human Services.

WorkSafe Victoria Safety Alert - Hyperbaric chambers

Patient delivered partner therapy - information for clinicians 

27 August 2015

Patient delivered partner therapy (PDPT) describes the practice in which treatment is prescribed for the sexual partner/s of an index patient diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, as well as the index patient.

The patient then delivers a prescription, or the treatment, to their partner/s. The department has provided guidance and information for clinicians on the safe use of patient delivered partner therapy for chlamydia infection in Victoria.

Hospitals alerted to antibiotic resistant bacteria

16 June 2015

The Department of Health & Human Services is working with Victorian Health Services in response to an emerging antibiotic resistant bacteria requiring heightened infection control measures.

Hospitals should strictly enforce existing Australian guidelines on managing the antibiotic resistant bacteria known as Carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), available at the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website.

The department has developed a detailed guideline to supplement the interim advice and the national guideline.

Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae - management guidelines

Media release: Hospitals alerted to antibiotic resistant bacteria