Queensland health authorities, assisted by scientists and police, are urgently investigating the puzzling case of a 30-year-old man from the country town of Blackwater whose death makes him the youngest person to die from the coronavirus in Australia.
The man was found dead in his home by his partner on Tuesday, 26 May and a subsequent post-mortem determined that he was infected with COVID-19.
He thus becomes the 103rd person to die in Australia from the coronavirus. He is also the first Queenslander to die from the virus outside the state’s south-east corner.
The unusual nature of the case, apart from the victim’s age, is that he was not known to be infected, there are no recorded incidents of COVID-19 in Blackwater, and the man apparently had not left the region since February.
Infected Rockhampton nurse may be a factor
One of the possibilities now being investigated is that he may have been in contact with a nurse from Rockhampton, who is believed to have visited Blackwater in breach of the travel restrictions in place in Queensland. Police have been asked to probe this.
Rockhampton is around 200km from Blackwater.
Authorities are concerned that there may be other undetected cases in the community and the state’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, has now ordered scientists to look through the state’s sewage waste to see if more people in the area have contracted the virus and to identify other potential virus hotspots around the state, the Brisbane Times reported.
The testing, developed by researchers at the University of Queensland, gives a real-time snapshot of how many people in a given community have the virus.
Fever clinics have also been set up in Blackwater and nearby Emerald, which is around 74km away. Tracing teams have been sent to the town in an effort to determine how far the virus may have spread within the community.
Deceased had a ‘complicated’ medical history
Dr Young said the man had a “complicated” medical history and had not worked since November 2019. His partner works at a local store.
The partner is apparently showing symptoms of the virus and has been taken to the Rockhampton Hospital, where she is in isolation while further tests are being done.
The paramedics and police officers who were called to the scene of the man’s death are now in quarantine.