Australia’s youngest victim of coronavirus has been identified as 30-year-old Nathan Turner from Blackwater in Central Queensland.
Key points:The 30-year-old man never went in for testing despite being unwell for weeksThere have been no prior cases in Blackwater, raising concerns for authoritiesThe victim had a complicated medical history
It is understood the miner, who had pre-existing medical conditions, was found unresponsive at his Blackwater home on Tuesday when his partner returned home from work.
Queensland Health is investigating whether Mr Turner’s death is connected to another recent COVID-19 infection in a Rockhampton nurse, which sent an aged care home into lockdown.
The woman tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month after working for more than a week — with symptoms — at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre.
In a statement, a Queensland Health spokesperson acknowledged the nurse travelled to Blackwater, but suggested the two had not had contact.
“The [nurse] travelled to Blackwater in the second week of May but did not interact with other individuals there,” the spokesperson said.
“Information provided to Queensland Health about the case identified today indicated the man had respiratory symptoms since the first week of May.
“At this time, no evidence has been provided to Queensland Health that links the two cases, but we will continue to assess all information relevant to any case.”
Nathan Turner, 30, was found unresponsive in his Blackwater home in Central Queensland yesterday.(Facebook)
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said the news of Mr Turner’s death came as a surprise.
“He hadn’t worked for some time, he’s been very ill,” he said.
“They found him dead last night and it’s of course put ripples right through the community here.
“I think he last worked in November last year.
“People are concerned and want to know what really is behind it all.
“I urge the community to remain calm, the health authorities are doing their very best.”
Chief health officer Jeannette Young said the man’s partner returned home from work at 4:30pm and had found him unresponsive.
He died a short time later and a positive COVID-19 test was returned about 11:00pm.
Dr Young said the man was believed to have been sick with symptoms for several weeks and had a “complicated” medical history.
She said it was not known how he contracted the virus but he had become the “youngest” victim in Australia.
“You then get into semantics about what was the trigger and what was the cause. Any person who dies, who is infected with COVID-19, we declare it as a COVID-19 related death,” Dr Young said
Dr Young said the man had a “complicated” medical history.(AAP: Darren England)Queensland COVID-19 snapshot:Confirmed cases so far: 1,058Deaths: 7Patients tested: 180,371
Latest information from Queensland Health.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said she was worried there could be underlying community transmission in central Queensland, where a case was discovered in the Rockhampton nursing home almost a fortnight ago.
“Where there’s cases that we can’t identify a source of transmission or there’s no direct link with someone who has had COVID-19 previously or hasn’t returned from overseas, I get concerned that people could be could be acquiring this illness in the community — and that underlying community transmission is a cause for concern,” she said.
“We want to do our best to find COVID-19 cases, isolate them and treat them, and that’s going to be really difficult when people aren’t presenting for testing, and then potentially spreading the virus to other people.
“Health officials are saying he did have very limited contact with the community in the last few weeks because he had been ill.
“He was experiencing symptoms but didn’t go and get tested for COVID-19.”
But Ms Lauga said so far there was no basis to rumours the two cases were connected.
“I’ve sought advice on this and so far there has not been any confirmation of any connection between the Rockhampton nurse case and this gentleman in Blackwater,” Ms Lauga said.
“But the contact tracers will be working very fast to identify whether there is any potential link.”
Man’s partner has symptoms
The fatality brings the state’s coronavirus death toll to seven, with a total of 1,058 cases.
The man’s partner also has symptoms and is isolation at home, however an initial test for COVID-19 has been negative.
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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was thought the man had been home for most of the time he was ill and had not travelled outside Blackwater since February.
It is understood he had not been working since November.
“We need to make sure that people with any flu-like symptoms are coming forward and getting tested,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“It’s a timely reminder too for all Queenslanders that this COVID is real, it’s out there.
“Blackwater has never had a case of COVID before — contact tracing is extensively underway.
“The police and ambulance officers who attended the scene are also now in quarantine.”
Mr Miles encouraged all Queenslanders with symptoms to get tested.(AAP: Jono Searle)
Health Minister Steven Miles said extra testing capacity was being set up in the regional town for people to be examined.
“It appears that this gentleman who has passed away was ill for some time and did not get tested,” he said.
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“This message is particularly important for all the blokes out there.
“I know that men sometimes fob off their illnesses, they don’t go and get medical assistance, but it’s incredibly important right now that anyone with symptoms goes and gets tested.”
Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap.Mining industry on alert
Central Highlands Mayor Kerry Hayes said the Local Disaster Management Group was working closely with the local resource industry to respond to the Blackwater death.
The town has a population of about 4,500 people.
Meanwhile, almost half of the wider Central Highlands population works directly, or indirectly, in the region’s coal mines.
“A lot of the population there is engaged, either directly or indirectly, with the resource industry.
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine president Dr McPhee at the COVID-19 fever clinic in Emerald, in March.(Supplied: Emerald Medical Group)
“Some of their contingency plans are staged around a positive test happening in their community.
“If they need to be activated, we’ll do that.”
Emerald GP Dr Ewen McPhee said the region is prepared to respond to any potential community transmission.
A free respiratory clinic was set up at Emerald, near Blackwater, and was the first to open in rural Australia.
“We need to get out there and start case finding,” he said.
“Because when you have potential community transmission, you want to pick up people early, you want to make sure that people with any respiratory symptoms stay at home.”
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