GP shortage stymies dengue control as first death confirmed
THE first death in north Queensland’s dengue epidemic has been confirmed as observers claim a shortage of doctors in the area is hampering containment efforts.
Queensland Health has confirmed the death of the elderly woman, from Manoora, who died earlier this week in Cairns Base Hospital.
"There were a number of contributing factors (to her death) but we can confirm it was dengue-related," said a Queensland Health spokesperson.
Meanwhile Dr Ian Bennett (pictured), from the Barrier Reef Medical Centre in north Cairns, said it was inappropriate that people were unwittingly contributing to the spread of the disease because of the delay in accessing medical care.
“People are sick and ringing up for an appointment and getting one in five days’ time,” he said.
Practice staff screened patients on the phone about symptoms, but only half were presenting with classic symptoms of fever and severe retro-orbital headache, he said.
Dr Bennett was among doctors who have been giving intravenous fluids to patients with dengue in general practice, which was taking a welcome load off the local emergency department, according to Tropical Population Health Services medical director Dr Jeffrey Hanna.
Meanwhile, GPs in the outbreak zones of Cairns and Townsville have been urged to report suspected dengue cases immediately, rather than waiting for PCR or serology tests.
“This enables us to get infection control teams out to the area,” said public health physician Dr Frank Beard.
Around 20% of patients required hospital treatment, including some with severe illness, but there were no known cases meeting the WHO definition for dengue haemorrhagic fever, despite earlier reports of one suspected case, Dr Beard said.
The emergence of locally acquired dengue in the Indigenous communities of Yarrabah (two cases) and Injinoo (one case) was of great concern he said, given the higher proportion of people likely to have pre-existing medical problems put them at increased risk.