‘Beggars belief’: AMA slams nebuliser use
The chief of the Australian Medical Association in Victoria has slammed the use of the device thought to be responsible for the latest COVID-19 outbreak.
The state's chief health officer Brett Sutton revealed on Wednesday a nebuliser - a device that vaporises liquid into fine mist - was believed to be behind the spread of coronavirus at the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn quarantine hotel.
The outbreak has now infected eight people after two new cases were announced on Wednesday afternoon.
The cases include a food and beverage worker and authorised officer based at the hotel, three other workers and three residents.
The working theory of health officials is the food and beverage worker, authorised officer and a resident who has since left hotel quarantine became infected when a quarantine guest with the virus used a nebuliser for medical treatment.
That caused fine aerosolised particles carrying coronavirus to be suspended in the air and spread throughout the hotel.
AMA Victoria president Julian Rait said it "beggars belief" that a nebuliser was allowed to be used in hotel quarantine.
"The medical community knows full well these particular devices are really COVID spreaders," Professor Rait told The Today Show on Wednesday morning.
"There are a number of examples, both in Australia and overseas, where we think they've contributed to outbreaks.
"The fact one of these machines could get into hotels in the first place is disconcerting."
Prof Rait said the ventilation controls within the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport hotel also appeared not to be up to scratch.
"Over seven months ago, there was concern expressed by aerosol scientists who wrote to the World Health Organisation and said aerosols needed to be taken more seriously," he said.
"I think it's a problem of communication. In this particular situation, the knowledge is well and truly well known that ventilation control is an essential part of preventing the
spread of COVID-19, especially in healthcare settings.
"It is disappointing that information hasn't been necessarily fully shared with COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, which is the branch responsible for hotel quarantine."
Prof Sutton said nebulisers were a risk authorities needed to be acutely aware of and its use meant everyone who was on that floor had possibly been exposed to the virus.
"The working hypothesis for the Holiday Inn is that our three cases are related to an exposure event that involved a medical device called the nebuliser and it vaporises medication or liquid into a very fine mist," he said.
"We think the exposures are all related to that event, the use of a nebuliser whereby then meant that the virus was carried out into the corridor."
Any worker or resident who spent 15 minutes or more at the Holiday Inn between January 27 and February 9 has been considered a close contact and must isolate for 14 days.
Originally published as 'Beggars belief': AMA slams nebuliser use