Update from the Bellingen Covid-19 Clinic with Dr Trevor Cheney

Dr Trevor Cheney gives his weekly report from the Bellingen Shire Covid-19 Clinic

So in a week that Australia launches into an “ on again” phase of the on again-off again pandemic (that will be the reality for the next couple of years), it is a great time to refocus the mind on how well each of us are doing in terms of trying to avoid an outbreak.

Australia so far has about 7.7 K cases, only 104 have succumbed.

There is some good and interesting news in the body of medical literature (that is growing faster than weeds in a Bellingen summer).

A local study of 1.4K Aussies showed 9/10 of us believe that precautions are necessary and state that they practice 3 or more of the recommended safety behaviours. This may be important to remind our young adults, who still make up the biggest demographic of cases, and many of whom will happily be returning to visit family this week from Melbourne in the Uni break.

There was an early concern that people with high blood pressure who take certain medicines might be at higher risk . Happily so far the evidence says no problem, and professors of medicine are encouraging hypertensives to not stop taking their medicines. Poorly controlled diabetes and hypertension are big risk factors. These medicines are ACE inhibitors (generic names end in “-pril”) and ARB2 antagonists (generic names end in “-artan”).

Again some weight is building behind recommendations for wearing of face masks – especially in large public situations like Public transport. It was sobering to hear a poor woman testify to the Florida legislature about the value of masks – she had lost her son (younguns take note), 2 siblings and had family members still in ICU. This will be much more important when we have a wave rise amongst us. The trick is we won’t know till there is a positive swab.

We have some new instructions on the technique of swabbing. The new advice is a quicker, simpler swab – tonsils and just the first 2cm of the nose will be adequate so it should be less frightening or uncomfortable. Some have asked if this all means that we have to take kids in for a swab every time they get another sniffle? Well to some extent –yes. We are still a long way off being confident that this disease can be controlled, managed, prevented or cured, let alone be picked up before it has seeded in the population. And while we have done a lot of swabbing compared to similar sized regions – we have still only seen about 1/15th of the Bellingen Shire’s population.

There is much talk of a new salivary swab being trialled by the Victorian government. This is interesting, but not our saviour yet. It is less sensitive, so in arcane epidemiological terms it is adequate for screening large populations – ie a Melbourne locked down suburb – but not great at telling you whether you have the virus, or not and can go about life normally.

On the negative side : A very small Chinese study suggested immunity may wane after 3 months – but the design and sample size make it very difficult to take seriously.

The original theory that this is a winter virus is out the window with rising tidal waves in sunny North America, and rebounds in European summer.

There is more emerging evidence of the long term consequences of the virus – It is not just a respiratory virus but affects immune systems, heart, blood clotting and has been associated with chronic post viral fatigue syndrome – Glandular fever plus!. And these consequences can get to be shared by 20 somethings!

We have heard of the “second wave” and “the parallel wave” – of mental health consequences. Sadly there is another wave that you really need to be looking out for. The Scam Wave!

There is a politician’s saying – “never let a good crisis go to waste”. We need to be wary that our leaders don’t lose their heads and trade out democratic principles. But more insidious are the scammers who are using peoples’ trust, fear, and lack of understanding. Please visit the ACCC site “Scamwatch” and please talk any elderly or less IT-literate friends or relatives through it.

Scammers are sending very authentic looking documents pretending to be from Woolworths, Health Minister Greg Hunt, the Department of Health, Westpac, The Tax Office. They may demand you clarify personal details before receiving JobKeeper, offer to help you apply for government grants or assistance, claim a contact trace, retrieve prizes, help you access your superannuation … and then steal it.

Warning signs are texts or emails that require/invite you to open a hyperlink (in blue text) or respond at a website or “simply visit HTTP/www.….” with a few unusual key strokes or numbers, or requests to access your computer remotely to “sort it out”.

This is a plague that is even harder to fight. Please look at the Scamwatch warnings

Our doctors and nurses have noted some pets in the cars when people come to the clinic get a bit agitated, either from waiting, or seeing their human get interfered with. Our clinic is getting a bit busier. Please we would prefer not to swab, or be bitten by, your cute puppy. No pets at the clinic.

We are still doing OK.   Keep safe and celebrate country living.


Dr Trevor Cheney


This is one perspective and please check with you own GP who knows you and your environment.



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