Category Archives: Western Australia

Western Australia | 2,400 students take part in St John Ambulance Youth Challenge

More than 2,400 Perth schoolchildren are taking part in the inaugural St John Ambulance WA Youth Challenge event at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre today.

St John Chief Executive Officer Tony Ahern said the youth challenge aimed at inspiring young people to learn new skills and get them excited about first aid.

“St John has the objective of making first aid a part of everyone’s life so today is about delivering on that,” he said.

“If more people learn first aid, we build a more resilient community. St John operates a world-class ambulance service in Western Australia but those few minutes immediately after an incident are critical in a life and death scenario.

“The better equipped people are to deal with these sorts of scenarios, the better the patient outcomes.

“We think the students attending today will learn some new skills and have fun doing it.”

Mr Ahern said the challenge requires students to apply critical and creative thinking skills such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation to solve the challenge tasks.

The year 4-7 students attending the event are from 27 Perth primary schools. They will be given a “passport” when they enter the event and they will then participate in various first aid scenarios to get their passport stamped.

In moving through the scenarios, they will learn:

  1.      Vital life-saving skills including the recovery position and the DRSABCD action plan
  2.      Management of external bleeding
  3.      Treating burns and scalds
  4.      Dealing with bites and stings

Students will also get to meet St John paramedics and get a closer look at ambulances.

Western Australia | Chickenpox – not just a harmless childhood illness

WA Health has launched a six-week campaign to encourage all Western Australians – adults and children – to get vaccinated for chickenpox, amid concerns that many people mistakenly think the illness is harmless.

The campaign, the first of its kind in Western Australia, will employ radio and online advertising as well as posters and community announcements in Coles supermarkets, to reinforce the message that chickenpox is serious, with symptoms sometimes leading to hospitalisation or – in extreme cases – death.

Department of Health Communicable Disease Control Medical Coordinator Dr Paul Effler said Western Australia already had 213 reported cases of chickenpox in 2014, and data from recent years shows August tended to be the highest month for reports.

“Chickenpox needs to be taken seriously as it can make children very sick and cause serious health complications in adults,” he said.

“We are concerned that parents are leaving their children to catch the disease in the natural environment rather than getting them vaccinated,” he said.

“While most children who get chickenpox have a mild illness, some can become very sick and get infected chickenpox spots that can leave permanent scarring.

“In adults, chickenpox can be a painful and life-threatening illness, and is of particular concern for pregnant women and people with low immunity.

“In the three years from 2011 to 2013, more than 240 people (approximately 80 per year) were hospitalised due to chicken pox, and between 2007 to 2011 chickenpox was associated with eight deaths.

“I recommend any adult who does not remember having the disease as a child, get vaccinated – not only for their own sake, but also because chickenpox is highly contagious. When a person has chickenpox more than 90 per cent of their susceptible close contacts, such as family and friends will also catch it.”

Dr Effler said that while the chickenpox vaccine was offered free as part of the national childhood immunisation program, it had a lower uptake than other vaccines on the program.

A recent survey conducted by WA Health found that 43 per cent of WA parents who chose not to immunise their children against chickenpox did so because they did not think chickenpox was a dangerous disease.

Travellers were at particular risk because the virus was prevalent in countries where the chickenpox vaccination was not available.

For more information look for chickenpox on the Healthy WA website (external site).

Western Australia | Measles warning issued for passengers on Singapore-Perth flight

The WA Department of Health is warning travellers who travelled on Singapore Airlines flight SQ225 departing Singapore for Perth on 26 July 2014 that they may have been exposed to measles.

The warning comes after a passenger who travelled on this flight was confirmed to have been infectious with measles. This passenger also travelled on Singapore Airlines flight SQ5066 from Davao in the Philippines to Singapore, earlier the same day.

Dr Paul Effler from the Communicable Disease Control Directorate said “measles is highly infectious and is spread through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes which usually last for several days before a red, blotchy rash appears. Complications can include pneumonia or swelling of the brain,” Dr Effler said.

Susceptible passengers who may have been exposed to measles on this flight could expect symptoms to appear any time between the 2nd and 12th of August.

Passengers who develop these symptoms should seek medical attention, but it is important that they phone ahead first to ensure they don’t share the waiting area with other patients and risk infecting them”, Dr Effler said.

“The local public health units are attempting to contact passengers who were seated closest to the infected traveller and are most at risk, however, other passengers seated elsewhere on the plane may have been exposed to the virus and should also be alert for symptoms.

“WA is experiencing a surge in measles cases. So far in 2014, we have had 33 measles infections reported; that’s already more than we’ve seen in any previous year for the past decade.” Dr Effler said nine of the patients had been hospitalised and half were adults aged between 20 and 49 years of age.

Dr Effler said that many Australians under 50 years of age who have not received two doses of measles vaccine are still susceptible to measles. Persons born before 1966 are usually immune because they had measles during childhood.

Dr Effler said “Measles is still common in many parts of the world and Australians who travel abroad need to check their immunisation status. If you are under 50 and are not sure if you’ve had 2 doses of measles vaccine you should consult with your doctor at least a month before your departure.”

Dr Effler also urged parents to check that their children are fully immunised. Children should receive a dose of measles vaccine at both 12 and 18 months of age, as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule. For more information on measles visit measles

For more information on measles, please go to

Western Australia | Helping communities withstand natural disasters

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan joined the Western Australian Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis today to announce that over $2 million in Commonwealth funding is being made available to improve community preparedness for natural disasters.


This is part of more than $6 million the Commonwealth is providing to Western Australia through the current National Partnership Agreement on Natural Disaster Resilience.


Mr Keenan said the funding partnership between the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments would strengthen disaster resilience across Western Australia through

state-wide and community level projects.


“Although many natural disasters are unpredictable, we can all be better prepared. It is only by working together we can reduce the potentially destructive impacts of future disasters such as bushfires and cyclones,” Mr Keenan said.


Mr Francis said the funding was available to organisations across Western Australia to help attract, support and retain emergency management volunteers and to improve the ability of local communities to deal with disasters.


“These grants can be used for a wide range of projects such as upgrading firefighting facilities, building new emergency access roads and drainage works to cope with extreme flood events,” Mr Francis said.


Grants are available through the State Emergency Management Committee (SEMC).

  • Grant applications for the 2014-15 Natural Disaster Resilience Program open on 1 August 2014 and close on 30 September, 2014
  • Applicants are required to match funding applied for through dollar and/or in-kind contributions
  • More information available at

WA | St John boosts medic training to state’s resources sector

Mining, petroleum and industrial companies can bolster their occupational safety and health capability with a new medic training program offered by St John Ambulance Western Australia.

St John launched the Certificate IV in Health Care (Ambulance) this month with the inaugural class of resources workers enrolled in the 10-day course.

Students undertake medical and emergency response scenarios ranging from minor accidents through to mass casualty explosions and other potential serious industrial incidents.

On completing the course, these workers return to their usual job roles backed by the skills to respond in an industrial first aid emergency.

St John Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Smith, said Certificate IV meets resource sector demand for medics with hands-on, practical training.

“St John has responded to an obvious need in the marketplace for a first-class industrial medic course,” he said.

“For businesses, having a Certificate IV trained worker on site provides a high level of expertise and capability to react in an emergency.

“Medic-trained employees will have an additional valuable skillset to add to their CV in what is becoming a more competitive resources job market.”

According to the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum, in 2012/13 the mining industry had 411 serious injuries which resulted in a worker being off work for two weeks or more.

These incidents require immediate expert medical care that has the best outcome for the patient and results in the quickest return to work.

Certificate IV students commence training with a digital theory component which they complete in their own time and typically takes four to six weeks.

This is followed by a 10-day practical course conducted by St John paramedics. Scenarios are customised for different industries to replicate those which a worker may be faced with on the job.

St John offers industry leading industrial medical services ranging from first aid training through to onsite paramedics.

To register or find out more, visit or call (08) 9334 1480.

WA | Mom’s first aid training saves boy from lifelong scarring

William Kee of Furnissdale was nearly two years old when he suffered severe burns from a household accident.

His mother, Clare Craggs, had recently completed a first aid course and knew what to do in an emergency.

“When my son was 23 months old he was badly burned by a cup of coffee,” Clare said.

“Following my first aid training, I responded quickly and stripped all his clothes and put him in a cold shower for 20 minutes before taking him to hospital.”

Once in hospital, William was cared for by renowned burns specialist Winthrop Professor Fiona Wood.

In just four months of treatment, he had no visible scars. If it had not been for his mother’s quick thinking, the outcome could have been far worse.

“Fiona Wood told me that if I had not administered first aid, William could have been scarred for life,” Clare said.

Winthrop Professor Wood said: “Twenty minutes of cool clear running water reduces the impact of burn injury in children by 80 per cent, so this first aid message is fundamental not just for parents of children but all members of the community.”

St John Ambulance WA, the state’s leading first aid training, wants to make first aid a part of everyone’s life.

St John First Aid Services and Training General Manager Jane Mahon said: “Providing first aid in a medical emergency can have a huge impact and support the efforts of paramedics and doctors, as we saw with William.”

In 2013/14, St John trained 220,748 people in first aid, including more than 100,000 WA schoolchildren through the First Aid Focus program.

St John has recently launched a tiny tots first aid kit which contains useful items to help parents monitor temperatures, treat minor scratches and to manage unexpected accidents.

For information about first aid training or the tiny tots first aid kit, contact 1300 STJOHN or visit

WA | Measles contact at Royal Perth and Bentley Hospitals

The Department of Health is alerting people who were at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) on July 3 and 6 or at Bentley Hospital on July 2 and 5, that they may have been exposed to measles.

A person who was at RPH and Bentley Hospitals on these days has been confirmed to have measles. If not immune, exposed people who attended the hospitals on these days could develop symptoms of the disease from now until around July 24.

An unimmunised traveller who was infected while holidaying overseas, and who attended the Emergency Department at RPH on June 21 and 24, was the original source of the infection. That person has also spread measles to two family members and another patient attending the Emergency Department at that time.

Contact associated with the most recent case is believed to be limited, but the necessary precautions are being taken by advising known contacts, including both staff and patients.

Measles is highly infectious to non-immune persons and is spread by airborne respiratory droplets. The incubation period is usually 10–14 days but may be up to 18 days. Clinical illness from measles usually begins as fever, cough, runny nose and sneezing and conjunctivitis (red, sore eyes), before the characteristic blotchy red rash appears after about 3 to 4 days. Measles is infectious up to five days before the rash appears, and usually for about 4 days after appearance of the rash.

Measles can be a serious illness, especially in young children and other vulnerable people. Around 50% of cases may require hospitalisation, and complications include pneumonia and encephalitis.

People who have not been vaccinated against measles or have received only one dose of vaccine may still be susceptible to infection. About 99 per cent of people who receive the recommended course of two vaccinations will be immune to measles. People born before 1966 have a high probability of being immune through prior natural infection.

Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA since 1999, but occasional cases and small outbreaks occur associated with tourists or WA residents returning from overseas.

A family of five unimmunised children also recently acquired measles from an unknown source in WA. These incidents are a reminder of the importance for all Western Australians to be fully vaccinated against measles and other infectious diseases, including when travelling overseas.

People who think they may have measles should stay at home and not go to public places. If they need to attend a GP or hospital they should phone ahead so that precautions can be taken to ensure they do not sit in waiting rooms and clinical areas where they may infect other patients and staff.

Further information regarding measles is available at

WA | 11th case of meningococcal infection

The Department of Health today reported that an elderly person was recently diagnosed with meningococcal disease and is making a good recovery.

Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness due to a bacterial infection of the blood and/or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

The Department of Health has identified the person’s close contacts and provided them with information, and, where appropriate, antibiotics that minimise the chance that the organism might be passed on to others.

Meningococcal bacteria are carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by about 10–20 per cent of the population at any one time. Very rarely, the bacteria invade the bloodstream and cause serious infections.

Meningococcal bacteria are not easily spread from person-to-person. The bacterium is present in droplets discharged from the nose and throat when coughing or sneezing, but is not spread by saliva and does not survive more than a few seconds in the environment.

Invasive meningococcal infection is most common in babies and young children, older teenagers and young adults, but infection can occur at any age.

Symptoms may include high fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, and severe muscle and joint pains. Young children may not complain of symptoms, so fever, pale or blotchy complexion, vomiting, lethargy (blank staring, floppiness, inactivity, hard to wake, or poor feeding) and rash are important signs.

Sometimes—but not always—symptoms may be accompanied by the appearance of a spotty red-purple rash that looks like small bleeding points beneath the skin or bruises.

Although treatable with antibiotics, the infection can progress very rapidly, so it is important that anyone experiencing these symptoms seeks medical attention promptly. With appropriate treatment, most people make a good recovery.

The incidence of meningococcal disease has decreased significantly in WA over the past decade, with around 20 to 25 cases reported each year—down from a peak of 86 cases in 2000.

There were 16 cases notified in 2013, the lowest number recorded in more than 20 years. Eleven cases have been reported to date in 2014.

A vaccine to protect against the C type of meningococcal disease, which in the past was responsible for around 15 per cent of cases in WA, is provided free to children at 12 months of age.

Western Australia | St John Ambulance receives $340K donation from BHP Billiton Iron Ore

St John Ambulance recently secured more than $340,000 from BHP Billiton Iron Ore for important works that will benefit the ambulance service and the community.

The funding includes $210,000 for a new emergency support vehicle, radio communications upgrade, training equipment and other upgrades at the Port Hedland Sub Centre.

An additional $130,000 will go to the Newman Sub Branch for an equipment servicing vehicle, six Automatic External Defibrillators (AED), communications equipment and first aid training courses in remote indigenous communities.

St John North West Regional Manager Wil White thanked BHP Billiton Iron Ore for its support.

“We are grateful that BHP Billiton Iron Ore has provided us with this generous donation to upgrade our facilities and equipment,” he said.

“These grants will significantly improve ambulance response capability and patient health outcomes in the Pilbara region.”

Mr White said increased first aid training in remote indigenous communities would have a positive impact in these areas.

“St John will be able to provide these communities with essential skills and equipment to help in a medical emergency,” he said.

The six new AEDs will be installed in public areas in Newman and will be linked with the St John Community First Responder (CFR) system.

In the event of a cardiac arrest, a CFR will be alerted when a triple zero (000) emergency call is made and the closest AED can then be made available to provide potentially life-saving defibrillation.

Western Australia | Time to get vaccinated as flu season picks up

Western Australians being reminded that it’s not too late to get the influenza vaccine with the flu season yet to peak.

Dr Paul Effler from WA Health’s Communicable Disease Control said the number of influenza cases is beginning to rise, signalling that flu season will likely be upon us in the next few weeks.

“The Eastern states have already seen a higher number of cases than at the same time last year and here visits to GPs for flu illness are rising,” Dr Effler said.

“These warning signs are a reminder for people who want to be protected that they should get the vaccine sooner rather than later as it can take up to two weeks for the body to build up good immunity.

“The protection from the flu vaccine lasts about a year, so even if you were vaccinated last year you’ll need to have it again to remain protected.”

Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, tiredness and vomiting. In severe cases, it can result in complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia and can lead to hospitalisation—or even death.

“Influenza can be a serious illness, particularly for the elderly, pregnant women and persons with underlying medical conditions. People in these groups should take advantage of the opportunity to protect themselves by getting vaccinated now,” Dr Effler said.

Parents are also being encouraged to get their young children immunised against flu. Children who catch influenza can develop serious complications including high fever, convulsions, and pneumonia.

The vaccine is free to a number of eligible at-risk groups including young children, Aboriginal people aged 15 years and older, pregnant women, people aged 65 years and older and those with chronic medical conditions.

Some private providers may charge a fee to administer the flu vaccine and people are advised to discuss this with their doctor or immunisation clinic when making an appointment.