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Over 300 volunteers in the Metro South region took up the call to join the Winter Respiratory Viruses Sentinel Surveillance Program to help identify what respiratory viruses were lurking in our backyard.
Participants undertook weekly self-collected nasal swabs in a joint effort to help Public Health find trends in respiratory viruses circulating in the community and help better prepare our health service to predict when waves may occur.
Many members of the community have had numerous swabs in the last few years. Despite this, participants were excited to be part of the program.
Winter Warrior Douglas Fahey, Administration Officer in PAH Cardiology, was eager to sign up.
“It was just one small thing I knew I could do to help safeguard vulnerable people in my social groups and community by helping to track down viruses before they spread,” he said.
Another participant, Valerie Green from Children’s Health Queensland, like many members of our community, is finally getting back into family events.
“I felt peace of mind attending my son’s wedding when my results came back negative. Getting tested weekly was so easy. If I didn’t have that I would have stressed more about isolating beforehand to make sure I didn’t pass on any bugs to my family,” she said.
This flagship project has laid the foundations for future initiatives led by our Public Health Unit.
“I think this program has given us a lot of experience,” said Public Health Registrar Dr Yudish Soonarane.
“This initiative has been a great steppingstone for potential larger state-wide surveillance programs in the future,” he said.
With over 300 dedicated participants, the Public Health Unit are now collating participant feedback to help better improve future programs.
Dr Yee Sum Li, Public Health Registrar, was blown away by the dedication of the Winter Warriors.
“People were very dedicated in submitting swabs to pathology labs, especially when symptomatic and we want to thank all the participants that helped us get here,” she said.
The Public Health Unit will now work with Gold Coast Health and Central Queensland Health to review the data and processes to do an evaluation of the system to see how effective it was. Based on that evaluation, the Public Health Unit will discuss future plans of setting up more surveillance programs.
Dealing with respiratory viruses in the community has irrevocably changed. In a time when community members have felt helpless about the spread of respiratory viruses, becoming a Winter Warrior has given the power back to our participants to remain vigilant.
As one of our Winter Warriors, Deb Henry from the Woolloongabba Community Health Centre put it, “We must keep the workplace safe for all, as many are older with various health concerns. We need to look after one another and this program is one way to do so.”
If you are interested in hearing about future programs run by the Metro South Public Health Unit, please email MSPHU-Programs@health.qld.gov.au.