New COVID variants rear their heads

Broken Hill Covid numbers have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride this year and two new variants are on their way.

This week we have 19 confirmed Covid cases, after 484 tests.

On May 3 we had 50 cases, while on August 17 we had 723 cases in town.

It is predicted by NSW Health that we will have another wave soon as two new variants make their appearance and Covid shots are weakening for those who had them at the height of the vaccination drive.

NSW Chief Health Officer, Kerry Chant, has warned this week of the new wave of Covid and urged people to get a booster vaccine, with new Omicron sub-variants BQ.1 and XBB expected to overtake BA.5 as the dominant variants in Australia.

“We’re starting to see an increase in Covid-19 cases and changes in the variants circulating in NSW, which tells us that we’re entering the next Covid-19 wave,” she said this week.

“Whilst the rate of vaccinations and previous infection continues to reduce the rate of severe illness, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions will continue to be at higher risk.”

Dr Chant urges everyone to make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations, and understand if they fall into groups who would be eligible and recommended to take antivirals – more on that below.

New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have all recorded cases of both new variants and are recording increases in related Covid cases and hospitalisations.

The two new variants, according to the World Health Organisation, do not have more severe symptoms than the recent Omicron variants in the last Covid wave, but they do spread more easily.

Eligibility for Antivirals

Are you eligible for the antiviral treatment?

Antiviral treatments taken as capsules or tablets may help stop Covid infection from becoming severe.

Courses of these treatments need to be started as soon as possible after symptoms begin.

People at higher risk of severe illness are eligible for antiviral treatments.

If you test positive for Covid, you may be eligible for antiviral treatments if you are:

70 or older, regardless of risk factors and with or without symptoms

50 or older with two additional risk factors

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, 30 years of age or older, with one additional risk factor.

Risk factors for these groups include:

Living in residential aged care, living with disability with multiple conditions and frailty (but not limited to living in supported accommodation), neurological conditions like stroke or dementia and demyelinating conditions e.g. multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, chronic respiratory conditions including COPD, moderate or severe asthma, obesity or diabetes (type I or II requiring medication), heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, kidney failure or cirrhosis, living remotely with reduced access to higher level healthcare.

People aged 18 years or older

You may be eligible for antiviral treatments if you test positive for Covid and are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

Conditions include blood cancer or some red blood cell disorders (thalassemia, sickle cell disease), transplant recipient, primary or acquired (HIV) immunodeficiency, chemotherapy or whole-body radiotherapy in the last three months, high dose corticosteroids or pulse corticosteroid therapy in the previous three months, immunosuppressive treatments in the last three months, rituximab in the last 12 months, cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome, congenital heart disease, living with disability with multiple conditions and/or frailty.


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