Status:
Active
Health advisory:
201019
Date Issued:
19 Oct 2020
Issued by:
Dr Annaliese van Diemen, Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease)
Issued to:
COVID-19 accommodation program residents and health professionals.

Key messages

  • The Department of Health and Human Services is supporting Safer Care Victoria and Alfred Health to identify and contact residents whose blood glucose levels were measured while in COVID-19 accommodation, between 29 March and 20 August 2020. 
  • The review was prompted by a newly identified risk of cross-contamination through a device used to to measure their blood glucose level (BGL) via a finger prick test.
  • The devices used are not intended for ‘shared’ use and present a potential cross-contamination infection risk (Hepatitis B and C, and HIV).
  • The risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses as low, however as a precaution, anyone identified at risk is being contacted and offered a free screening test for Hepatitis B and C and HIV if required.
  • Anyone who used their own personal device to test their blood glucose levels is not at risk.
  • If residents believe or are unsure if they had this test, they can call the dedicated hotline on 1800 356 061 (8am to 8pm, seven days a week). Interpreters are available on request.
  • Further information is available at: https://www.bettersafercare.vic.gov.au/blood-glucose-monitoring-in-mandatory-quarantine
     

What is the issue?

The Department of Health and Human Services is supporting Safer Care Victoria and Alfred Health to identify and contact residents whose blood glucose levels were measured using provided devices while in COVID-19 accommodation, between 29 March and 20 August 2020. 

Blood glucose level testing devices intended for use by one person were used across other residents. The lancet (or needle) was changed between individuals, however, the body of the device could have retained microscopic amounts of blood. This is where the cross-contamination risk lies if used across multiple people.

The devices were immediately removed from use in COVID-19 accommodation when Alfred Health became aware they were in use

An independent Expert Advisory Group has advised that this situation presents a low risk of blood borne virus (hepatitis B and C, and HIV) transmission to people who have had a BGL taken using the provided equipment. These people are therefore being contacted to be offered precautionary screening and follow up care.
 
The department is supporting the review of resident health records and contacting people to determine whether they may have had the test. Those considered at risk will be contacted subsequently by Alfred Health to arrange screening.
 
Safer Care Victoria is conducting an independent review to identify what happened and why and will make recommendations for systems improvements.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who had their blood glucose level tested using the provided devices while in COVID-19 accommodation between 29 March and 20 August 2020 is potentially at risk of contracting a blood-borne virus. 

Those who used their own personal device to test their blood glucose level are not at risk. There is no risk to people who did not have a blood glucose level test. 

This device is mostly used to test blood glucose levels in people with diabetes, but it is also used for pregnant women, or people who are generally unwell..   

Symptoms and transmission

Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus and causes inflammation of the liver which can lead to serious complications. It can be transmitted by sharing unsterile piercing or drug injecting equipment. Some people who are infected with the hepatitis B virus have mild, flu-like symptoms and some are asymptomatic.

Hepatitis C is a virus that also causes inflammation and damage to the liver. The most common way people become infected with hepatitis C in Australia is by sharing drug-injecting equipment such as needles, syringes, spoons and tourniquets. Symptoms can include dark urine, eyes and skin turning yellow or minor flu-like symptoms. Twenty to 30 per cent of people who have been infected may clear the virus from their blood naturally, with no treatment, within six months. Hepatitis C is treated with antiviral medications.

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system and make it difficult for the body to fight off simple infections. AIDS is now very rare in Australia, as HIV treatments effectively protect the immune system from the virus. HIV can be transmitted by sharing any needles, syringes, or other injecting equipment. Symptoms of HIV can include flu-like symptoms, extreme and constant tiredness, fevers, swollen glands, continuous coughing, diarrhoea and decreased appetite. 

Recommendations

Clinicians, please refer any patients who are concerned to dedicated hotline the on 1800 356 061 (8am to 8pm, seven days a week). 

People identified at risk will be initially referred for precautionary screening with Alfred Health. If anyone had their blood glucose levels measured while in COVID-19 accommodation between 29 March and 20 August 2020, and hasn’t been contacted, please call the dedicated hotline on 1800 356 061 (8am to 8pm, seven days a week). Interpreters are available on request.

Those who used their own personal device to test their blood sugar levels are not at risk and will not be contacted.

More information

Better Safer Care - Blood glucose monitoring in mandatory quarantine

Better Health Channel - Hepatitis B

Better Health Channel - Hepatitis C

Better Health Channel - HIV

Contacts

For more information please contact the dedicated hotline on 1800 356 061 (8am to 8pm, seven days a week). If you require an interpreter, please call TIS on 131 450.