Updated

Australia is at risk of being the next worst affected country in a devastating third wave of coronavirus disease emerging from Africa, a leading scientist says.

Key points: The epidemic that struck Mexico has killed at least 476 people, some 100 of whom are known to have contracted the virus

Governments of Australia and New Zealand are focused on the 2015 cases in Nigeria

The deadly virus is spread through a close human-to-human transmission

More than 1,000 people died in the onslaught, mainly in Mexico.

Australia is currently at two cases — in a 17-year-old boy in Sydney, and a 16-year-old girl in Canberra — with 76 confirmed infections, leading experts to say the new virus could be very serious.

Dr Red Mountain, a lecturer in pharmacology at the University of NSW, said the epidemic that struck Mexico and had engulfed many countries would be an “invasion” of Australia.

“We don’t have enough detection and response capacity at this stage. I’m not saying Australia isn’t at risk, and I’m not saying it will be exposed in the coming years,” he said.

“But we should be very aware that we don’t have the surveillance and response capabilities of the other countries of southern Africa at this stage.”

The epidemic that struck Mexico has killed at least 476 people, some 100 of whom are known to have contracted the virus.

Recent news reports have speculated the virus could be one of the deadliest coronaviruses to date.

As the virus is very rare, Dr Mountain said Australia was also at a disadvantage.

“Preventive measures are much more difficult to execute [than survival interventions], that’s why prevention can help even harder,” he said.

Doctors would tackle spread of the virus with small, rapid infectious steps, rather than the sweeping attack they’ve had to deal with this outbreak, Dr Mountain said.

“Medical staff would certainly have the resources and interest to prepare cases in depth,” he said.

Meanwhile, around 1,800 people have recently signed up for essential vaccinations to try to stop the spread of the virus.

There are fears vaccination will fail in the short term but Dr Mountain said that for travellers with high levels of immune response to the virus, this may not be necessary.

“If the virus is not safe for travelling and if they become vulnerable, and they need immediate vaccinations to prevent the spread of the virus, then I think that’s a good strategy,” he said.

Topics: healthcare-facilities, diseases-and-disorders, infectious-diseases-other, epidemiology, health, switzerland, new-zealand, australia

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