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Notifiable diseases after implementation of COVID-19 public health prevention measures in Central Queensland, Australia
journal contributionposted on 04.05.2021, 04:24 by Odewumi Adegbija, Jacina Walker, Nicolas Smoll, Arifuzzaman Khan, Julieanne Graham, Gulam KhandakerGulam Khandaker
Abstract: The implementation of public health measures to control the current COVID-19 pandemic (such as wider lockdowns, overseas travel restrictions and physical distancing) is likely to have affected the spread of other notifiable diseases. This is a descriptive report of communicable disease surveillance in Central Queensland (CQ) for six months (1 April to 30 September 2020) after the introduction of physical distancing and wider lockdown measures in Queensland. The counts of notifiable communicable diseases in CQ in the six months were observed and compared with the average for the same months during the years 2015 to 2019. During the study's six months, there were notable decreases in notifications of most vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, pertussis and rotavirus. Conversely, notifications increased for disease groups such as blood-borne viruses, sexually transmitted infections and vector-borne diseases. There were no reported notifications for dengue fever and malaria which are mostly overseas acquired. The notifications of some communicable diseases in CQ were variably affected and the changes correlated with the implementation of the COVID-19 public health measures. Background: The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to some significant changes to local, regional and national public health practices including social distancing and wider lockdown. These measures have been previously reported to be associated with reductions in the incidence of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases as well as of other airborne transmitted agents.1,2 A preliminary analysis was conducted assessing the impact of these measures on nationally notifiable diseases across Australia;3 however, the impact of these measures on communicable diseases within regional Australia is not well established. Like most regional areas, Central Queensland (CQ) has a lower population density and considerable distance from major cities; it will be informative to understand how these measures impact on notifiable conditions in this regional setting. We aimed to identify the patterns of change in reported notifiable conditions to the Central Queensland Public Health Unit (CQPHU), during a six-month period (1 April to 30 September 2020) following the implementation of COVID-19 measures. Here, we compare these notifications to the surveillance data for the same six-month period for the previous five years (2015 to 2019). Methods: The study encompasses all notifiable conditions reported from CQ, which covers approximately 226,000 population and is spread over 117,588 square kilometres. Communicable diseases data were retrieved from the Queensland Notifiable Conditions System (NoCS), an online epidemiological database, from 1 January 2015 to 30 September 2020. The data were collected under the Public Health Act 2005, a legislative authority that provides permission to access health information. Permission to publish was given by the Communicable Diseases Branch of Queensland. Data were extracted on selected notifiable diseases in Queensland: blood-borne viruses (BBV), gastrointestinal diseases, sexually transmissible infections (STIs), vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), vector-borne diseases, zoonotic diseases and other diseases. For each disease, the count for six months following the implementation of COVID-19 public health measures (1 April to 30 September 2020) was compared with the average for the same six-month period during the years 2015 to 2019. Results: From 1 April to 30 September 2020, after the implementation of Queensland's COVID-19 preventive measures, there was a decrease seen in several diseases notifications reported to the CQPHU, mostly VPDs, when compared with the same months for each of 2015 to 2019 and for the 5-year average (2015-2019) for those months (Table 1). However, increases in notifications for April-September 2020 were observed in a greater number of other notifiable disease groups.