It is a requirement of the enabling Agreement that allows students to undertake clinical/fieldwork placements in Health Department of Western Australia facilities that you are screened for and vaccinated against the following conditions before you go on placement. Information about the conditions is from the Australian Immunisation Handbook.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, also known as ‘the tubercle bacillus’. TB commonly affects the lungs, but can reach any part of the body. It is usually spread by the coughs or sneezes of an infected person, but is not highly contagious. Prolonged close contact with a person with TB – for example, living in the same household – is usually necessary for infection to be passed on. It may take many years before someone infected with TB develops the full disease. TB worldwide is a massive and growing problem, although Australia has managed to maintain a low, relatively constant incidence. TB is curable with a course of special antibiotics taken for at least six months. The most important part of controlling TB is identifying and treating those who already have the disease, to shorten their infection and to stop it being passed on to others.
Curtin University Health Services offers a (Quantiferon Gold) tuberculin screening blood test. The cost of the screening is $75.00. To make an appointment phone (08) 9266 7345 or visit building 109 on Bentley Campus. Please be aware the test must be taken before 11.30am. You may need to consider re-doing if you have been at risk of exposure (e.g. clinical setting outside of Australia). It is advisable to see your doctor to discuss this.
Please contact the Health Service by telephone (9266 7345) or in person (Building 109) to make your appointment. TB testing may also be done through a private service provider, on reference from your doctor. Take the tuberculin test form (below) for medical staff completion.
Hepatitis B is one of several different hepatitis viruses that can cause liver infections and damage. It is found in the body fluids of infected people and spreads through:
- sexual contact;
- sharing drug injecting equipment, toothbrushes or razors;
- childbirth from mother to babies; and
- unclean facilities used for tattooing and body piercing.
People in high-risk occupations such as health workers are also susceptible to infection through accidental contact with infected patients/clients. Hepatitis B is a vaccine preventable disease.
Symptoms can show between one to 12 weeks after infection and they include:
- poor appetite;
- nausea and/or vomiting;
- abdominal discomfort/pain;
- muscle and joint pain;
- skin rashes;
- jaundice (yellow colouring of eyes, skin and urine); and
- dark urine and light faeces.
Most people recover from the acute infection but may carry the Hepatitis B virus long after recovering from symptoms. Some people develop chronic hepatitis, which can lead to liver failure and cancer.
Serological confirmation of post-vaccination immunity
Post-vaccination serological testing is required four weeks after the third dose of Hepatitis B vaccine to ascertain immune/carrier status. This result is confidential therefore responsibility is with the student to ensure appropriate counselling and treatment has been received. Once immunity is established serologically, it is assumed to be permanent.
You may wish to discuss your immune/carrier status, which may have implications for you completing your course of study, with the relevant unit co-ordinator. All information will remain confidential.
Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious diseases, spread between people through droplets in the air. Mumps can also be contracted through contact with the saliva of an infected person.
Infected people can spread measles a few days before the symptoms appear. It takes between 10 and 14 days for symptoms to show after infection.
- runny nose; and
- inflammation of the eye.
Complications of measles include ear, brain and lung infections, which can lead to brain damage and death.
Adults who have never had measles, or who were born after 1966 and have never been vaccinated against the disease, may require vaccination. Once proven immune, or you have received a booster vaccination, immunity is considered permanent.
Caused by a virus, mumps is a salivary gland infection. It takes between 12 and 25 days for symptoms of this disease to show after infection. People may be infectious six days before symptoms develop and up to nine days after they go away.
Symptoms of mumps include:
- swelling under the jaw area;
- headache; and
- aching muscles.
Complications of the disease include serious infection of other glands and body parts, such as testicles, ovaries, pancreas, liver, brain and heart. Hearing loss can occur due to nerve damage and mumps can cause sterility in some men.
Caused by a virus, symptoms of rubella take between 14 and 23 days after infection to show.
Symptoms are generally mild and may include:
- a rash;
- lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph glands); and
- joint pain.
Complications are rare and include encephalitis (brain infection) and low levels of white cells and platelets in blood.
Becoming infected with rubella in the first 8 – 10 weeks of pregnancy can cause abnormalities in the developing baby. These can be severe and include deafness, blindness, heart defects and mental retardation. Luckily, it is a vaccine preventable disease and immunisation can reduce the number of babies born with abnormalities.
Varicella (chickenpox) is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is a member of the herpes group of viruses. Symptoms of chickenpox take between 14 and 15 days after infection to show. Varicella is a common, highly infectious, childhood illness; usually self-limiting and uncomplicated. However, cross-infection in hospital environments, especially in maternity and paediatric settings, can cause serious illness in immunocompromised clients. It is likely that some students will be among the approximately 10-25% of adults who are not immune, which would pose a risk to yourselves and your clients.
The disease is spread by direct contact with people who are infected and it is often more serious in adults.
Symptoms of chickenpox include a rash that turns into open lesions (small wounds), which crust over.
- infection of the lesions;
- pneumonia (lung infection);
- difficulty walking and balancing;
- meningitis (infection of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord); and
- encephalitis (brain infection).
Chickenpox virus can reactivate many years after the initial infection and cause shingles (herpes zoster). Once proven immune, or you have received two doses of vaccine, you are considered permanently immune.
An acute illness, diphtheria is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Toxins (poisonous substances) produced by the bacteria affect the respiratory tract (lung and windpipe), nervous system, adrenal gland and heart muscle cells.
Spread by droplets or direct contact with wounds and materials soiled by infected persons, diphtheria takes two to five days after infection for symptoms to show.
The disease mainly affects the respiratory tract but skin can also become infected. The bacteria form a ‘membrane’ of dead white blood cells in the upper respiratory tract, causing breathing difficulties. The diphtheria toxin can cause nerve and heart damage.
Caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, tetanus takes about one to 21 days after infection for symptoms to show. The bacteria are spread from the environment to open wounds where they can enter the blood stream.
Toxins (poisonous substances) produced by the bacteria affect the nervous system, causing symptoms such as:
- muscle spasms;
- trismus (lockjaw);
- difficulty talking;
- difficulty breathing; and
- stiffness and/or pain in the shoulders, back and neck.
Doses of the vaccine are given at two, four, and six months of age. Boosters are given at four years and twelve years of age. The booster is recommended every 10 years, throughout life. A person who gets a deep or contaminated wound more than five years after the last tetanus vaccination may be advised to have a tetanus booster.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, this disease is highly infectious and most serious in babies. Pertussis is spread through droplets in the air and it can develop from upper respiratory tract (windpipe) infections into pertussis pneumonia (lung infection).
Symptoms include coughing and ‘whooping’, which can continue for a few months.
Complications of the disease include hypoxic encephalopathy (lack of oxygen to the brain) leading to brain damage and possibly death.
People in high risk occupations, such as health care workers, should consider receiving a booster against pertussis.
A booster vaccination containing pertussis confers permanent immunity against these diseases.
The flu is caused by two types of viruses in humans (influenza A and B). Spread between people through droplets in the air, after infection symptoms take between one to three days to show.
- sneezing and runny nose;
- poor appetite; and
- muscle aches.
Further health problems can develop in some people after infection with influenza including pneumonia, heart, blood system and liver complications, which can lead to death, especially in children and older people.
Influenza is a vaccine preventable disease, but vaccines need to be given each year because the viruses are always changing.
It is a condition of your enrolment that you be vaccinated for influenza as directed by your course requirements.
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) clearance is also required if a student has been a patient or has worked in any hospital or residential care facility outside Western Australia in the 12 months before beginning a placement. Exposure to the infection may also occur in other locations such as schools or child care facilities.
Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for a wide variety of infections especially in hospital environments where patients are at increased risk. Antibiotics are commonly used in the treatment of Staph. aureus infections but the Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus strain is resistant to almost all antibiotics and can therefore cause serious and often fatal infections.
It is a requirement of the enabling Agreement that all students have a MRSA clearance if you have worked in a clinical area or been a patient in a hospital outside Western Australia within the past twelve months.
You may have been exposed to the infection through other locations, such as schools or child care institutions in other countries. If you are concerned about your possible exposure, consult your unit co-ordinator. The clearance must be current prior to commencing your course and for the duration of the course. You are responsible for maintaining a level of health consistent with safe clinical practice. Failure to meet this requirement will lead to exclusion from fieldwork. To assist, an annual declaration about possible exposure to MRSA is required during your clinical education.
As well as offering protection to patients and clients, these requirements support the University’s commitment to take all reasonable steps for the protection of students from dangerous communicable diseases during the period of the student’s enrolment at Curtin.
Curtin has to advise a health facility if you refuse, on the basis of conscientious objection, to be screened and/or vaccinated against the above conditions. If there is a risk that patient safety may be compromised, you may be refused access to the facility and so prejudice successfully completing your course of study.
Information about when vaccinations are needed during a course are shown in the following table, including the need for an annual influenza vaccination. Some vaccinations, such as hepatitis B, need multiple inoculations over a period of time before immunity is achieved so that screening and vaccination should be planned early. TB screening should be completed before you receive vaccines for other conditions because of possible interactive effects.
Your vaccinations should be complete BEFORE the semester and year (listed below) of your course.
Screening and vaccinations are available from Curtin’s Health Services or another health service. An appointment is necessary. TB testing is available from Curtin’s Health Services, by appointment, before each semester.
It should be noted that screening and vaccination costs are your responsibility and will vary for individual students, based on your immunisation history. The costs are an investment in your future because vaccination brings permanent benefits to your professional practice and to your personal well-being.
You are strongly advised to keep a copy of your screening/vaccination history in a safe place. Please take a photocopy of each completed form prior to handing to your school office.
For further details on agreements between Curtin University of Technology and Government of Western Australia Department of Health Public Hospitals please access the Students Clinical Placements at Public Hospitals – Agreements website.