Coronacast is a podcast that answers your questions about coronavirus. We break down the latest news and research to help you understand how the world is living through a pandemic.
Another wave of COVID infections seems to be underway in parts of Australia, and NSW is leading the pack. The variant soup is getting more complex by the day — but luckily the dominant mutations don't seem to be causing more severe disease. Regardless, as more people get infected and re-infected, researchers are fast at work trying to determine what might protect people from long-term consequences. References: Adherence to Healthy Lifestyle Prior to Infection and Risk of Post-COVID-19 Condition Severe COVID-19 outcomes by cardiovascular risk profile in England in 2020: a population-based cohort study
In 2022, Australia saw an estimated 12% increase in the number of deaths compared to expert predictions. More than half of those were due to COVID-19. And there are signs that even the deaths that couldn't be directly linked to COVID-19 are a result of the pandemic. This pattern isn't just playing out in Australia, but around the globe. So what are the driving factors, and what can be done to address them? References: Almost 20,000 excess deaths for 2022 in Australia One-Year Adverse Outcomes Among US Adults With Post-COVID-19 Condition vs Those Without COVID-19 in a Large Commercial Insurance Database Life expectancy changes since COVID-19
Since ATAGI updated its booster advice there have been lots of questions about why kids aren't able to get another jab. We discuss the reasoning behind the age limit, as well as some other vaccine-related questions from listeners. Also, a few controversial COVID topics... from Ivermectin to the US Energy Department's theory on where the virus came from. References: COVID-19 vaccines for children Effect of Higher-Dose Ivermectin for 6 Days vs Placebo on Time to Sustained Recovery in Outpatients With COVID-19 Lab Leak Most Likely Origin of Covid-19 Pandemic, Energy Department Now Says
Antivirals are an important measure to prevent severe disease in vulnerable people with COVID-19. But there have been concerns antivirals could lead to rebound infections — the resurgence of viral load following the completion of the medication. So what do the latest studies say? Also, we speak to an expert informing the parliamentary inquiry into long COVID about how to best care for patients. Guest: Professor Tania Sorrell University of Sydney References: SARS-CoV-2 rebound with and without antivirals Viral burden rebound in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 receiving oral antivirals in Hong Kong: a population-wide retrospective cohort study Submission—Inquiry into long COVID and repeated COVID infections
An old debate has been reignited after a review declared the effects of masks is uncertain and in need of further investigation. Meanwhile Sydney scientists have found a receptor that sticks to the coronavirus and pulls it away from lung cells, opening up potential treatment avenues. But for now, vaccines remain the best protection against severe disease. So when should you get your next booster? We answer some common questions. References: Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses Yes, masks reduce the risk of spreading COVID, despite a review saying they don't Fibroblast-expressed LRRC15 is a receptor for SARS-CoV-2 spike and controls antiviral and antifibrotic transcriptional programs
Australian adults will be able to get a fifth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within a fortnight. People aged 18 and over who've not had a COVID vaccine or a positive case in the last six months will also be eligible for another shot.
The majority of Australians have received at least two doses of a COVID vaccine — and they've most likely caught the virus as well. New research suggests this hybrid immunity offers good protection against severe disease, although the risk of long COVID persists with even mild bouts of infection. There could soon be a simple model to predict how likely you are to recover well from COVID, or whether you'll go on to develop post-viral symptoms. Guest: Professor Jeremy Nicholson Director, Australian National Phenome Centre, Health Futures Institute References: Protective effectiveness of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and hybrid immunity against the omicron variant and severe disease: a systematic review and meta-regression A patient-centric modeling framework captures recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection
It has been three years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health emergency. The WHO isn't ready to downgrade the status of the pandemic, but the committee has agreed we're at a 'transition' point. Meanwhile an outbreak of influenza in mink has highlighted the need for greater animal-human disease surveillance.
Although we didn't begin this year with any lockdowns or border closures, the pandemic hasn't abated. In fact we're off to a worse start than we had in 2022. Australia surpassed 1,000 deaths a whole week earlier than it did last year. New subvariants are circulating fast. So what's changed? What's the best protection? And could sluggish surveillance be leaving us vulnerable?
What a year 2022 has been for COVID. We started with a new variant sweeping the world, heavy restrictions and border closures and we end with very few restrictions remaining. We also sadly end with millions not fully vaccinated, and an aged care system that is still battling the virus. So on the last Coronacast of the year, we go down the 2022 rabbit hole and try to make some predictions for 2023.
The number of new weekly COVID cases seems to be slowing, but sadly doesn't seem to be slowing fast enough to be free of the current wave by Christmas. Last year was a strong COVID Christmas, as the Omicron variant took over from Delta bringing thousands and thousands of new cases. This time, the wave will be smaller - but still noticeable. And we break down the big announcements from National Cabinet: PCR testing and the country's COVID strategy in 2023.
There's been a lot of discussion about the origins of COVID, especially on the question of did it come from a lab, did it form naturally - or maybe a mix of both. Well a new book called Dark Winter has tackled this question and has come to the conclusion that we better get better at identifying outbreaks - because sometimes they're intentional. While there's no direct evidence that COVID came from a lab leak, author and Professor Raina MacIntyre argues it is possible and some have been too quick to wave away the possibility.
Protests are breaking out across parts of China in response to the Chinese government zero COVID restrictions. The number of COVID cases has soared in China in recent weeks, rising at a similar rate to what happened in March this year. The outbreak was quickly brought under control, by the use of the Government's severe measures such as forced external quarantine and city wide lockdowns. But with widespread discontent and protests, it may prove harder to keep this outbreak under control. So is this the end of China's COVID zero? References: China Covid: Shocking protests are huge challenge for China's leaders - Stephen McDonell Associations between COVID‐19 and hospitalisation with respiratory and non‐respiratory conditions: a record linkage study
There's hope that the current Omicron sub variant wave will be in decline again just in time for Christmas - but like everything COVID, it's hard to know for sure. Both case loads and hospitalisations due to COVID have continued to increase in the last week. The latest advice from state health authorities say that overseas experience suggests the current wave might pass relatively quickly, though they warn local conditions may mean it's different here. So what do we know about the latest wave? And is it better to have a quick one, or one that lasts for a longer time?
Another week, another big jump in COVID case numbers and rising admissions to hospitals. The next wave is well and truly underway, with the BA4 and BA5 sub variants rapidly being replaced by versions that are even more immune evasive. However, when Omicron turned up last year there were a variety of public health measures in place to try and slow infection rates. This time though, we've only got vaccination and an optional sense of public duty. So can we slow down the next wave, or is it coming in hard and fast?
Rapid-antigen tests promised so much: a quick, cheap and easy way to tell if you were COVID positive so you could make a decision to help protect yourself, family and community. But in reality, it's far more complicated. The tests were initially hard to come by, expensive for some and the rollout was patchy. And now, add to that the fact that the coronavirus has continued to evolve - making it hard to tell if RATs can even detect COVID. So on this week's Coronacast, should we give a rat about RATs anymore? And why is it important that the tests do as they say?
New sub-variants of Coronavirus are increasingly appearing in Government statistics and clinical breakdowns of the virus' spread. The BQ1 and XBB sub-variants of Omicron have surged overseas, and are also starting to pick up in Australia. It's likely that they'll take over the BA5 subvariant that's been dominant for the past several months. So what could these new variants bring and given they're likely to evade our immune systems, what could it mean for spread and severe disease?
For those keeping count, 2022 hasn't been a great year for animal virus outbreaks into human populations. A new study has suggested that the Omicron variant may have had a reservoir in mice. Also, there are warnings that the East Coast floods may see a rise in people infected with the Japanese encephalitis virus, and parts of Uganda are locked down to prevent an Ebola outbreak from spreading into cities and across borders. So what's going on and how can we make sense of it all?
After all big events, it's important to look back and think about what worked and what didn't. And one of the biggest events lately is COVID, and especially how Australia handled it. A group of researchers and experts have done just that, analyzing everything from the vaccine rollout to virus control measures to looking at what could be improved for the next pandemic. So what did we do well, and what could we have done better?
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