Demand for mental health services up 30% in Victoria

5 minute read

Demand is soaring for Medicare-subsidised mental health services.

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  • The pandemic has seen a 15% increase in the number of Medicare-subsidised mental health services delivered nationally, and a 31% increase in Victoria during September-October compared to the same period last year, according to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. The Minister’s office released figures showing that calls to Beyond Blue’s support line were 77% higher in Victoria compared to the rest of the country, and calls to Lifeline in Victoria were 16% greater than nationally. In a statement, the Minister said these figures were ‘of significant concern’. “We encourage all Australians, and especially Victorians, to continue to stay on top of their mental and physical health and wellbeing wherever possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” he said.
  • A 45-year-old man has experienced sudden irreversible hearing loss after COVID-19, according to a case study reported in BMJ Case Reports. The patient was hospitalised with severe COVID-19, and was on invasive mechanical ventilation in intensive care for 30 days, during which time he also experienced bilateral pulmonary emboli, ventilator-associated pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension and anaemia. One week after being extubated, he reported experiencing tinnitus and sudden hearing loss in his left ear, despite no history of hearing loss or problems. He was treated with intratympanic steroids, which led to a small improvement, but did not completely regain his hearing. The authors noted that hearing loss and tinnitus had been associated with COVID-19 and influenza. “We suggest that patients are asked about hearing loss in the ITU environments when applicable, and any patient reporting acute hearing loss should be referred to otolaryngology on an emergency basis,” they said.
  • Meanwhile a serological survey of individuals who self-reported loss of taste or smell has found more than three-quarters have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, according to a paper published in PLOS Medicine. UK researchers recruited via four primary care centres in London by sending a text message to all patients registered at the centres, asking if they had noticed their sense of smell or taste being reduced in the previous month. Of the 567 individuals who then underwent a SARS-CoV-2 antibody test, just over 77% were found to have antibodies against the virus. Four out of five respondents experienced loss of both smell and taste, nearly 70% reported complete smell loss, and just over 47% reported complete loss of taste.Even after adjusting for sex, age, ethnicity and smoking status, researchers calculated that those who lost their sense of smell alone were nearly three times more likely to have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies than those who experienced loss of taste alone. Those who lost both their sense of taste and smell were four times more likely to have antibodies than those who only lost their sense of taste.“Acute loss of sense of smell needs to be considered globally as a criterion for self-isolation, testing, and contact tracing in order to contain the spread of COVID-19,” the authors wrote.
  • Two Sydney GPs have been diagnosed with COVID-19 after coming in contact with an infected patient. All staff at their clinic – A2Z Medical Clinic in Lakemba in south-west Sydney – are in isolation and being tested, and NSW Health has issued an alert for anyone who attended the clinic on the 1, 9, or 10 October. The index patient also attended another medical clinic in Lakemba – Isra Medical practice – and NSW Health says anyone who visited that venue in the evening of Monday 5 October is considered a casual contact. A pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic has been set up at Lakemba Uniting Church.
  • Another phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial has been paused after an unexplained illness in a study participant. Johnson & Johnson has announced it was temporarily pausing the ENSEMBLE trial of its vaccine JNJ-78436735, which targets the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Previous phase 1/2a study results suggested the vaccine generated a neutralising antibody response, and interim safety data found no serious adverse events aside from a fever in one participant, which resolved within 12 hours. The company has not provided any further information on the nature of the unexplained illness.
  • Another case of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection has been reported, and unlike previous case studies, the second infection was worse than the first. According to a paper in Lancet Infectious Diseases, a 25-year-old man tested positive after presenting to a Nevada community testing facility in mid-April with sore throat, cough, headache, nausea, and diarrhoea. His symptoms resolved by late April and he tested negative on PCR. Then on May 31, he went to an urgent care with more severe symptoms and five days later was hospitalised with hypoxia. Given the 48 days that had lapsed between testing negative after the first episode, then testing positive again, his two samples were sequenced and found to be genomically distinct. The man was not immunosuppressed and had no immune conditions that might have affected his response or risk of reinfection. The study’s authors noted that of the five cases of confirmed reinfection reported so far, only one other presented with more severe infection the second time. The other three have all experienced similar severity of symptoms in both rounds of infection. They suggested the more severe second presentation could be the result of higher levels of exposure the second time, or by reinfection with a more virulent strain. The findings have significant implications for vaccination against COVID-19, the authors wrote. “If we have truly reported a case of reinfection, initial exposure to SARS-CoV-2 might not result in a level of immunity that is 100% protective for all individuals.”

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