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Home deaths due to COVID-19 raises alarm among doctors

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Home deaths due COVID-19 have started to worry epidemiologists as the large numbers show that COVID-positive patients are not coming forward for testing.

Associate professor Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University said there had been multiple deaths from COVID-19 following new figures reported by the ABC’s 7.30 program that more than half of COVID deaths at home in NSW were not known to health authorities until post-mortem.

“If people came to hospital earlier it could be in fact a life-saving presentation. If people did have COVID, the question is why didn’t they get tested, or something prevented them getting COVID treatment such as the fear and stigma of it.”

Reports reveal how of the 29 people who died at home from coronavirus in NSW, 13 were known to NSW Health, while the remainder were only revealed to have had COVID-19 following their death.

Dr Senanayake said while a delay in testing may account for the number of COVID deaths at home, other health issues may 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,” he said.

“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 were at home. He said the availability of treatment had expanded over 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,” he said.

Of those who have died at home in NSW from COVID-19, ages have ranged from people in their 20s to 80s. A federal health department spokesman has said that anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should seek advice from their doctor through telehealth, or the Healthdirect phone line.

“Ignoring symptoms may result in missing a diagnosis of COVID-19 or a treatable infection with similar symptoms,” the department spokesman said.

Original story found on the AAP Newsroom website. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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