Victorian guidance on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

10 April 2018

The Commonwealth Government recently approved the listing of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). From 1 April 2018 individuals at medium- to high-risk of HIV can access PrEP through the PBS to help them reduce their risk of HIV.

More information on PrEP

Read the Victorian guidance document on PrEP

Queries about Wangaratta’s drinking water supply

21 March 2018

The following information is provided in response to queries about the safety of Wangaratta’s drinking water supply.

Following a training exercise at the Wangaratta Fire Station on Sunday 18 March, a small amount of solid material was found on the ground. Testing has confirmed that this material contains asbestos.

While the origin of the material has not been confirmed, it is likely it came through a high-pressure fire hydrant being used in the exercise, which sources water from Wangaratta’s mains network.

Many mains water pipes are made of asbestos cement and the local water authority, North East Water, is undertaking testing across its network in Wangaratta to determine whether this was the possible source of the asbestos material.

Asbestos cement was a common water pipe material world-wide for many years until its use began to be phased out in the 1980s. The effects of asbestos in water pipes have been studied extensively and results show that there is no increased risk of asbestos-related diseases from drinking or using water supplied through the cement pipes.

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer (Environment), Dr Angie Bone, advises that the community does not need to take any precautions, and the water supply is considered safe to drink.

North East Water routinely samples and monitors drinking water across its network to ensure the supply of safe drinking water. All drinking water agencies must do this under Victorian law.

The Department of Health and Human Services is working closely with North East Water in relation to this issue.

The Department of Health and Human Services safeguards Victoria’s drinking water supplies to both protect and enhance public health and wellbeing. More information about drinking water in Victoria can be found on the drinking water in Victoria page.

If you require further information regarding the safety of the water supply, please contact the Department of Health and Human Services Water Unit on 1300 761 874.

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

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.

Hyperbaric chambersSafety 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.

Read more information for clinicians on patient delivered partner therapy

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.

resistant bacteria on alert to antibiotic resistant bacteria

Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae - management guidelines

resistant bacteriaspitals alerted to antibiotic resistant bacteria