Australia A mystery COVID case and possible border breaches — here's the latest on Queensland's coronavirus situation
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Right now in Queensland, there are three cases of concern who were infectious while in the community: a flight attendant and a New South Wales man who are linked, and a new case added to the state's tally yesterday.
The latest case is a man in his 40s who had undergone 14 days of hotel quarantine after returning from China.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said he was fully vaccinated and had returned three negative tests while in hotel quarantine in Brisbane.
"His immediate household members are now in quarantine and have also been tested and I'm pleased to say so far tested negative," Ms D'Ath said.
How did this man contract the virus?
That remains a mystery for now, but here is what we do know about the man and his movements:
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July 12: Left hotel quarantine and returned home to the Gold Coast.
July 15: Became unwell (didn't necessarily show COVID-19 symptoms).
July 23: Visited GP – not COVID-related, but was tested for coronavirus.
July 24: Returned a positive result with high CT value (case now under investigation)
July 25: Admitted to hospital and retested. Later that day returned a test with medium CT value.
July 26: Case included in daily total.
What does CT value mean?
University of Queensland virologist Kirsty Short said CT value refers to how much viral genomic material can be detected in an individual.
"It's a little bit counterintuitive because when we say a high CT value that means they don't actually have much virus genomic material present … so it's sort of the inverse of what you would expect," Dr Short said.
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"So what happened with this individual is that when they were first tested they had a high CT value … so that means there wasn't much virus present."
Dr Short said this happens typically at the start of an infection and at the end of an infection.
"A few days later, this individual had a lower CT value, which means they actually have more virus," she said.
"Now, if this was at the end of the infection, you would expect very little virus and then the virus to be cleared.
"But this is more consistent with at the start of the infection where you have a little bit of virus present … so it makes it sound like this individual is at the start of their infection."
Do we know the genomic sequencing yet?
No, we don't.
But Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says there are three possible options for where the man contracted the virus:
- Hotel quarantine
- In the Gold Coast community
"It should be low risk, but look, we don't know," Dr Young said.
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What is 'shedding'?
During her daily press conference, Dr Young said she suspected possible shedding in this case at first.
"My thinking, when I was first given these results, was that we know if you have a separate illness, a separate respiratory illness, that can lead to shedding of COVID-19 virus if you have previously been infected, that is why we had to wait for more test results," she said yesterday.
Dr Short explained that when they do PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) they're not actually testing for infectious virus — they are testing for the genomic material of the virus.
"It's possible for an individual who's previously had infection to be no longer infectious, but still test positive for fragments of the virus," Dr Short said.
"So, if an individual comes up with a high CT values, a very low amount of the genomic material present, it's possible that they're not infectious and you're just testing the sort of remnants of a previous infection.
"Now, I don't think that that's the case here."
The man was vaccinated, can he still get COVID?
Yes, he can.
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Dr Young said vaccines "are not 100 per cent effective against preventing infection" but that they are very effective at preventing severe disease and death.
The man who returned from China was fully vaccinated there with one of the Chinese vaccines.
Dr Short said the most common vaccines on offer in China are Sinovac and Sinopharm.
"These are inactivated vaccines, so they are different type of platform to the ones that we have here and the efficacy of these vaccines is quite good … we are probably looking at about 80 per cent efficacy against hospitalisation," she said.
Why are Queensland police involved?
Officers are investigating the flight attendant and the NSW man she met up with over possible health directive breaches after the pair both tested positive to COVID-19.
The woman in her 30s tested positive last Friday and was infectious when she crewed six Qantas flights in Queensland.
The man tested positive while in NSW on July 12 and was counted in that state's numbers, but travelled to Queensland while infectious.
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski confirmed the woman, who hasn't fully cooperated with officers, has engaged legal representation.
"We had to go through a formal process to give directed interview for the flight attendant so we could get that information," he said.
"We are now doing that with the male … we're focusing on who they have had contact with.
"There are potential offences committed by both.
"We are working with our NSW colleagues in terms of what has happened in NSW, particularly by the male, but by both."
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