Outbreaks of infectious illnesses do not necessarily point to slackening COVID measures, a virus expert has explained.
CSU virologist Justin Roby explained that enormous differences between types of viruses means that COVID safety measures can, in fact, have little impact on reducing the spread of other illnesses.
"Not all viruses are the same," Dr Roby said. "They don't always transmit in the same way and so the measures you take to minimise risk of COVID are not necessarily going to be effective against other viruses."
He said if anything, viruses are more different to one another than anything else is.
"Virus are more diverse than the rest of life," he said. "One virus to another can be as dissimilar as you or I are to a bacterium."
He pointed out the virus behind Hand Foot and Mouth and gastroenteritis, for example, was completely different to the COVID virus and can require an entirely different form of prevention.
"Though we're taking COVID measures, these other virus' aren't COVID,'" he said. "Hand, Foot and Mouth disease is caused by enteroviruses which are often spread gastrointestinally, via the faecal oral route."
He said key differences differentiated the two types of virus.
"Gastrointestinal virus' tend to [have a different composition to COVID]," he said. "They are incredibly tough viruses, they can persist in the environment for longer than the COVID virus."
"They will persist on surfaces to a different extent to COVID and they transmits by a different mechanism, so you can take COVID precautions but they don't translate to every infectious disease."
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Hand sanitiser for example is effective against COVID, is often not recommended for Hand Foot and Mouth or gastro.
Health advice calls for hot soapy water to be used when washing hands to prevent spreading HFAM and gastro.
NSW Health warned that they have tracked a steady increase in the two gastrointestinal illnesses across recent months with hospital presentations increasing between February and April.
"The number of Emergency Departments presentations for Hand Foot and Mouth began to increase above historical levels across NSW in late January," a spokesperson said. "Presentations and admissions remained high during February and early March, with significant increases observed throughout April.
"Gastroenteritis outbreaks have recently increased above the five-year mean, with 207 outbreaks in childcare centres notified during March and 210 outbreaks in April."
Overall, however, rates of infectious illness have dipped with the department attributing the decline to COVID changes, something Dr Roby said could be possible for some types of illness.
Viruses with similar compositions like strains of the flu and common colds, are likely to be impacted by increased hygiene and general COVID measures because they are transmitted in similar ways, but are so evolved in transmission compared with COVID that they are unlikely to be serious impacted by the changes.
NSW Health urged people to be aware and vigilant of new outbreaks of diseases, specifically the ongoing Hand Foot and Mouth and gastro outbreak.
"People should stay vigilant and take measures to prevent the spread of these diseases, including staying away from childcare or work when unwell and continuing with hygiene measures," they said.