More than half of the Covid cases who died at home in NSW were unknown to health authorities

A leading epidemiologist has expressed concern at the number of Covid-positive people dying at home in Australia without having a test for the virus.

Associate Prof Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University said there had been multiple deaths from Covid due to people developing severe symptoms at home without being tested and receiving medical assistance.

New figures reported by the ABC’s 7.30 program suggest more than half of the deaths at home from Covid in NSW were not known to health authorities until a postmortem examination.

“If people came to hospital earlier it could be in fact a life-saving presentation,” Senanayake said on Monday.

“If people did have Covid, the question is why didn’t they get tested, of [did] something prevent them getting Covid treatment such as the fear and stigma of it.”

The ABC reported of the 29 people who died at home from coronavirus in NSW, 13 were known to NSW Gesondheid, while the remainder were only revealed to have had Covid-19 after their death. Die 7.30 program reported almost 40 people with Covid across Australia had died at home during the current outbreaks.

Nine people have died at home in Melbourne, the ABC reported, all in the city’s northern suburbs. Four were only diagnosed with Covid post-mortem.

Senanayake said while a delay in testing could account for the number of Covid deaths at home other health issues could also be a factor.

“Another possibility is that we know Covid can cause complications outside the lungs itself, so this can affect the heart and cause an inflammation of the heart muscle and could lead to someone passing away," hy het gesê.

“Similarly, we know that Covid is associated with clots, and if a patient were to get a big clot on the lung, that could lead to a fatal outcome if someone wasn’t hospitalised.”

The infectious diseases expert said health authorities regularly checked in with Covid patients who remained at home during their illness. He said the availability of treatments had expanded during the pandemic.

“In some jurisdictions they are sending out oxygen saturation probes so patients can measure their own oxygen levels and can send that data over to health authorities," hy het gesê.

The ages of those who have died at home in NSW range from people in their 20s to 80s.

Sydney GP Jamal Rifi told 7.30 many Covid patients deteriorated abruptly without realising how sick they were – or refused to go to a hospital.

“In the best of times, hospitals are a scary place," hy het gesê. “In the Covid-19 time, it’s even scarier.”

A federal health department spokesperson said anyone with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should seek advice from their doctor through telehealth. “They can also call Healthdirect for telephone advice,” they said.

Advice was also available online on state and territory websites or by phone in relation to how to arrange for a specimen to be collected for testing. “Ignoring symptoms may result in missing a diagnosis of Covid-19 or a treatable infection with similar symptoms,” the department spokesperson said.

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