Gippsland PHN is required to assist the State government in facilitation and coordination of a primary care response to an emergent situation. As part of this responsibility we are directed by the Department of Health & Human Services to lead communication to General Practices and other primary care providers on potential public health risks as alerted to us by the Chief Health Officer.

1 November 2017

Chief Health Officer Alert  – Recent increase in Invasive Group A Streptococcal disease in Victoria

Key messages

  • There has been a recent increase in cases of invasive group A streptococcal disease (iGAS) in Victoria.
  • Clinical manifestations of iGAS include sepsis, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, necrotising fasciitis, pneumonia/empyema, retropharyngeal abscess, osteomyelitis/septic arthritis, and (rarely) meningitis.
  • Young children, pregnant women and the elderly are at increased risk of iGAS infections.
  • There is an increased risk of secondary cases of iGAS in household contacts of index cases.
  • Household contacts require information about the increased risk and chemoprophylaxis should be considered.

More Information

Read the full advisory 

23 October 2017

Chief Health Officer Alert  – Unregulated Traditional Medicines

Key messages

  • 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.
  • Most complementary medicines sold in Australia are subject to regulation by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
  • No assurance can be given about the safety or quality of unregulated imported complementary medicines.
  • Ask patients about their use of traditional medicines, particularly migrants who may use these medicines more frequently and consider testing for heavy metals, including lead, if exposure is suspected.
  • Advise patients of the potential risks of using traditional unregulated medicines.
  • Report any adverse reactions associated with the use of medicines to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Clinical Information:

Read the full advisory online.

13 April 2017

Chief Health Officer Alert  – Legionnaires’ disease linked to Melbourne’s Central Business District

Key messages

  • Five cases of Legionnaires’ disease (Legionella pneumophila, serogroup 1) have been identified in the last fortnight involving individuals who have spent time in the eastern half of Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and/or Southbank.
  • Be alert for Legionnaires’ disease in patients with influenza-like symptoms, particularly those with severe pneumonia, who have been around the Melbourne CBD or Southbank areas since the end of March 2017.
  • If you suspect Legionnaires’ disease, request urinary antigen testing through your normal pathology provider. As a priority, order Legionella culture on sputum, and undertake serology on blood at baseline and 14 days later.
  • Legionnaires’ disease is a Group A notifiable condition which requires immediate notification on suspicion to the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160.

Clinical information
•Legionnaires’ disease is a Group A notifiable condition which requires immediate notification to the department by telephone on initial diagnosis (presumptive or confirmed) with written notification to follow within five days.
• For further information or to notify a case please contact the Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit at the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160 or visit Legionellosis – Disease Information and Advice on the department’s health website.

17 January 2017

Alert: Measles

Issued by: Professor Charles Guest, Chief Health Officer, Victoria

Issued to: General Practitioners and Hospital Emergency Departments

Key messages

  • There are two (2) confirmed case of measles who were infectious whilst at a number of places across Melbourne between 05 and 14 January 2017

◦ January 04 2017 – Air Asia DL214 Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne (Tullamarine)

◦ January 05 2017 – Melbourne Tullamarine Airport

◦ January 08 2017 – Fountain Gate Shopping Centre, Fountain Gate Village Cinema

◦ January 12-14 2017 – Angliss Hospital

  • The cases have travelled internationally during the time they probably acquired their infection.
  • Be alert for measles in patients presenting with a fever at rash onset, particularly if they attended the above places.
  • Isolate suspected cases to minimise the risk of transmission within your department/practice.
  • Notify the Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Section at the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160 of suspected cases immediately.
  • Take blood for measles serology in all suspected cases.
  • Discuss whether to take nose and throat swabs for PCR with the Department if your suspicion for measles is high. Approval is required prior to PCR testing at the reference laboratory. PCR testing for measles does not attract a Medicare rebate.

 Read more about the measles alert.

04 Jan 2017

Chief Health Officer Advisory: Health warning mosquitoes and Ross River virus

Key messages

  • Residents and visitors to Victoria are being warned to protect themselves against mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus and Murray Valley encephalitis.
  • Ross River virus has now been detected in mosquitoes around Mildura and Moira / Barmah Forest, giving an early indication of increased risk of human disease for summer and early autumn.
  • The best protection from these diseases is to avoid mosquito bites – protective measures include regularly using mosquito repellent containing picaridin or DEET, wearing loose fitting clothing when outside and ensuring accommodation is mosquito proof.
  • A range of information relating to protecting against mosquito bites is available on the Beat the Bite campaign page on the Better Health Channel.
  • Doctors should consider the possibility of mosquito-borne disease in patients presenting with a compatible illness, especially after travel to rural or regional Victoria.
  • Notify Murray Valley encephalitis immediately on suspicion and Ross River and Barmah Forest virus after laboratory confirmation.

Read the full advisory Health warning on mosquitoes and Ross River virus online.

21 December 2016

Food safety and listeria

  • Issued by: Dr Finn Romanes, Acting Chief Health Officer, Victoria
  • Issued to: Health professionals

Key messages

  • Listeriosis is a potentially serious infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
  • Be alert for listeriosis in high risk patients over the summer months.
  • The disease primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
  • Most people contract listeriosis after eating contaminated food.
  • Educate at-risk patients about safe food handling and which foods to avoid.

Read the full advisory on Food Safety and Listeria online

7 December 2016

Increase in syphilis and gonorrhoea in men who have sex with men (MSM)

  • Issued by: Professor Charles Guest, Chief Health Officer, Victoria
  • Issued to: Health professionals, including those working in sexual health

Key messages

  • Victorian syphilis and gonorrhoea notifications have increased in the last few years, with cases reported predominantly in men who have sex with men (MSM).
  • Syphilis and gonorrhoea can be transmitted by unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex
  • Syphilis and gonorrhoea infection increases both susceptibility to acquiring HIV infection and transmissibility of HIV infection.
  • Screen at risk groups:
    • MSM at least annually and higher risk MSM more often (e.g. every 3 months) for syphilis and gonorrhoea
    • HIV positive MSM for syphilis as part of routine HIV monitoring (e.g. implement an opt-out strategy).
  • Contact sexual partners of syphilis and gonorrhoea cases at the time of diagnosis.
  • Test and treat sexual contacts of syphilis and gonorrhoea cases without waiting for test results.
  • Educate patients about prevention strategies and early symptom recognition.

Read the full advisory Increase in syphilis and gonorrhoea in men who have sex with men (MSM) online.

31 October 2016

Update: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

Key messages

  • Healthcare professionals should be aware of the case definition for MERS-CoV and the Triage Alert issued for health services.
  • Take a travel history from all patients presenting with a fever and respiratory symptoms.
  • Provide travel health advice for people travelling to the Middle East, including those undertaking the annual Hajj Pilgrimage, and consider MERS-CoV in travellers who are unwell on return.
  • Notify the Department of Health & Human Services immediately of all suspected cases of MERS-CoV infection on 1300 651 160.
  •  Ensure appropriate infection control procedures are used when managing suspected cases, including isolating suspected cases in a single room with transmission-based contact and airborne precautions until MERS-CoV is excluded.

More information

For the latest information about this issue see health.vic to read more on the Update: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Authorised by the Victorian Government, Melbourne.

13 October 2016

Mosquitoes and Notifiable Conditions

DHHS Alert approved by the Chief Health Officer Alert – a copy of the document is attached:

Recent significant rains and floods across the state in September and October 2016 have caused ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Proactive measures are being undertaken to monitor and control mosquito numbers and encourage people to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites.

Cases of Barmah Forest virus disease, Ross River virus and in rare cases Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) may increase. What health professionals need to know and do:

Barmah Forest virus disease, Ross River virus and Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) are all notifiable conditions. For more information about the viruses and reporting: www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/infectious-diseases/notify-condition-now

Follow your normal practices for reporting notifiable diseases and conditions: Barham Forest and Ross River virus infection are Group B notifiable conditions and Murray Valley Encephalitis virus is a Group A notifiable condition. For more information about the viruses and reporting: www2.health.vic.gov.au/public-health/infectious-diseases/notify-condition-now

8 August 2016

Changing pattern of Mycobacterium ulcerans infection in Victoria

Issued to: Health professionals
Key messages
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans continues to be a concern in Victoria with most cases linked to exposure to known endemic areas in the Mornington Peninsula and Bellarine Peninsula.
  • There has been a steady increase in notifications of M. ulcerans, with over 100 cases reported in Victoria in 2015, and 46 cases so far this year. The infection affects people of all ages.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to minimise skin loss.
  • Consider the possibility of M.ulcerans in patients who present with a painless ulcer or compatible lesion after exposure to an endemic area.
  • M.ulcerans is a Group B disease and must be notified to the Department within five days of diagnosis.

For the latest information about this issue see Changing pattern of Mycobacterium ulcerans infection in Victoria

22 June 2016

Update: Increase in Meningococcal W disease in Victoria

Issued to: Health professionals

Key messages

  • Since 2014, there has been an increase in the number of notifications of Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) due to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W (also known as serogroup W135) in Victoria.
  • All age groups have been affected, with bacteraemia the most common presentation. However several cases have presented with less typical presentations, for example septic arthritis or epiglottitis.
  • Be alert for presentations that could be due to meningococcal disease. Consider testing for Invasive Meningococcal Disease in older patients who may have atypical presentations (septic arthritis, pneumonia, epiglottitis).
  • Quadrivalent meningococcal vaccines (4vMenCV and 4vMenPV) provide protection against meningococcal serogroup W and are available on private script. These are recommended for occupational exposures, travel and certain medical conditions, and can be offered to those who wish to protect themselves or their family from the disease.

More information

For the latest information about this issue see Update: Increase in Meningococcal W disease in Victoria