Public Health Nurse Terrianne Messina, Business Support Officer Jackie Atkins Environmental Health Officer Jacob Handley and Public Health Unit Director Brigid Fenech at Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin
Public Health Nurse Terrianne Messina, Business Support Officer Jackie Atkins Environmental Health Officer Jacob Handley and Public Health Unit Director Brigid Fenech at Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin

Where each Mackay Covid-19 case originated

HIGHLY skilled, contact tracers within Public Health Units have an innate ability to patiently question patients to map their movements and identify possible outbreaks of deadly diseases.

"It's a process that we go through, and it's not an easy one, but it is relevant," Public Health Unit director Brigid Fenech says.

"We know how to question people, too, to get the best information out of them.

"You're asking fairly intrusive questions, so the manner of testing is assertive without being aggressive because we're all trying to achieve the same goal, and that is community safety."

The responsibility has put the team under extreme pressure, first getting then verifying information.

That can include notifying any people the patients have been in contact with, and investigating other factors including environmental elements.

>>READ MORE: Mackay's heroes of the pandemic

"It absolutely does take a toll but it's something we've been doing since day dot, and certainly it's our focus at the moment, this pandemic," Ms Fenech said.

"The responsibility, yes, but the other side of that is that it might not just be one contact tracer for one case.

"Depending on how many contacts that one case has, there could be a team of two or three working on it; another person is issuing orders."

Each Mackay case has been linked back to an international traveller - either someone just back from overseas, or someone in close contact with them.

"International travel more broadly is what our link has been every time, without a doubt.

"They could be someone who had lived with them - father or son or partner or good friend. But there is always a very definite link back to the traveller."



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