Australia’s Third Wave Of COVID, Biggest Killer: Study

The Delta variant of the coronavirus which ripped through Australia from June last year was the most deadly of Australia’s first three waves, a new study has found.
29 Jun 2022 09:47
Australia’s Third Wave Of COVID, Biggest Killer: Study
Australia has had multiple waves of COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, but the Delta variant third wave was the most deadly, according to new research.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus which ripped through Australia from June last year was the most deadly of Australia’s first three waves, a new study has found.

Patients admitted to ICU during the third wave were mostly unvaccinated and younger than the previous two waves, Monash University researchers discovered, and while the length of ICU and hospital stays decreased, the risk of dying in hospital increased.

People admitted to hospital in the Delta wave were also more likely to be pregnant or obese, and less likely to have co-morbidity conditions,
the study said.


Dr Aidan Burrell from the Monash School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine said the data revealed that third wave patients showed “an increased risk of death” from bacterial pneumonia and pulmonary embolism.

The third wave was notable for greater use of non-invasive respiratory support over mechanical ventilation and lying patients on their front during mechanical ventilation, he said.

“There was widespread adoption of new evidence-based practices,” Dr Burrell said.


“However, despite these differences, the risk of dying was higher in the third wave and the findings reinforce the need to adequately resource ICUs, particularly during peak demand.”

Although fewer ICU patients received invasive respiratory therapies, changes in hospital mortality risks were mostly seen in people who had received mechanical ventilation.

The research published in the Medical Journal of Australia looked at evolving patient characteristics, treatments and outcomes of critically ill patients in the first, second and third waves.


In those waves, 2493 people were admitted to 59 ICUs: 214 in the first (9 per cent), 296 in the second (12 per cent), and 1983 (80 per cent) in the third.

Thirty patients died in hospital during the first wave, 35 in the second and 281 in the third.

In Australia, relatively few infections were experienced in waves one and two, due to a combination of national quarantine and social distancing measures.


Hospital and ICU load were maintained at near usual levels.
However, the emergence of the Delta strain in mid-2021 reduced the effectiveness of these measures, and rapid community spread quickly followed.

During the Delta wave, New South Wales and Victoria recorded the highest number of infections and deaths, and both states imposed a range of public health measures including vaccinations, social distancing and lockdowns.



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