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Quarantined - Part 6

One week down – one to go!

As if by magic, the question I raised in my last blog about what can be learnt about the specific qualities of a virus from a test, was dealt with in an ABC interview today. It was something that had been troubling me ever since the early news of the coronavirus … and troubling most other people too, I guess, but not answered in news coverage – …

HOW DOES A PERSON KNOW IF THEY’VE HAD A SLIGHT CASE, MAY STILL BE A CARRIER, MAY GET CORONAVIRUS A SECOND TIME ETC …? The questions surrounding testing of this virus are almost endless.

When I arrived in Peru on March 7, I was concerned that I’d had a sniffle and other signs of a slight cold/virus back in Sydney in Jan-Feb. Was it even possible for coronavirus to be present in Australia back then? I'm not saying my fear was rational; I'm saying we all experience some fear of infecting others. Then when someone in my family was tested and cleared as negative, I was relieved to know that I must not have been a carrier. And I’m fairly sure I haven’t had any contact with the infection since.

But isn’t this the KIND OF WORRY WE ALL CARRY to some degree? 'What about the time when … ?' 'I might have … ?' 'I was concerned about coming within the 1.5 – 2 metre limit the other day when …'


Today I heard about the work of Associate Professor Menno Van Zelm and his medical research colleagues at Monash University and The Alfred Hospital, and immediately felt grateful that these questions about the nature of the virus that need to be answered are the subject of specific research - along with effective treatment, and a long-term preventative vaccine being carried out elsewhere.

The ABC reported that the researchers have created a rapid test to determine a person's immunity to COVID-19 and how severe their symptoms might be.

Monash University's Menno van Zelm said it would play a crucial role in helping infected healthcare workers return to the frontline.

‘Hopefully with such a test, we can determine early who is immune to the virus and can get back to work.’

The same-day blood test, similar to that for influenza, looks for immune system cells, known as memory cells, which make antibodies to fight against viruses … to be able to predict who will get a mild version of the disease and who may need care in ICU.

‘We really want to employ it to understand what is different between patients with a really mild form of disease versus a severe form of disease.’

The test is still undergoing trials, but Associate Professor van Zelm believes that with sufficient funding it could be rolled out widely within months. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-06/victoria-coronavirus-death-toll-rises-as-cases-increase/12124156

So although the statistics in some parts of the world are exceedingly grim, in Australia we have taken some action (is it enough?) to flatten the curve, and the public at large does now seem to be taking the self-isolation measures seriously. There is a lot of doom and gloom – horrific images – families grieving from the onslaught of the virus. Still, there’s hope in the fact that dedicated medical researchers and carers are racing against time to find answers and provide compassion where they can.

A second flight out of Peru was announced yesterday, Monday April 6 – but it won’t be able to carry everyone wanting to come home. So many will have to register on the waiting list and get by however they can until arrangements are put in place for a further flight. And not only in Peru. India, Cambodia ... Australians have been great travellers for decades.

Why, oh why, couldn’t the government have stepped in to bring back its citizens sooner? They hadn’t left Australia after a curfew or border closure. DFAT’s Smartraveller hadn’t warned them against travelling at the time they left.

I feel blessed that I had the means to act early to fly back and, as I'm due to get out of quarantine next Monday good health prevailing, I hope I'll soon be returned to the reassuring fold of my homeland.



One wayward traveller’s opportunity to emote via her daily diary ...


Copyright Christine Williams

Image Unsplash - Daniel Morton

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