Siouxsie Wiles

Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a research scientist with a background in medical and environmental microbiology. She has made a career out of combining her twin passions of bioluminescence (the production of light by living organisms — think glow worms and fireflies) and nasty microbes. In a nutshell, Siouxsie and her team make nasty bacteria glow in the dark to better understand infectious diseases. Originally from the UK, Siouxsie now leads the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland. She was the 2013 winner of the Prime Minister's Science Media Communicator's Prize. Siouxsie is on Twitter @SiouxsieW

When will we know the lockdown is working? - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 27, 2020

Just before midnight on Wednesday March 25, Aotearoa New Zealand entered a countrywide alert level four lockdown. For at least the next four weeks, everyone who isn’t an essential worker is confined to their bubble. We are doing this to stop the explosive growth in people contracting and dying from Covid-19 that so many other countries are experiencing. Over the last few days, there have been more than 100,000 new confirmed cases globally. This number is likely a massive underestimate as many countries either can’t test every suspected case or are choosing not to. So, during this lockdown we have one really important job to do. And that is to stay in our bubbles and save lives. Understanding the Covid-19 lag I’m sure many of us have spent the first few days of lockdown trying … Read More

What does ‘level two’ mean – and why does it matter? - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 22, 2020

For the last few weeks, I’ve been urging you to prepare yourself, your family, business, and community for Covid-19. Now it’s time for real action.  Yesterday the director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced another 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, bringing our total to date to 52. Those cases include two that are potentially from community transmission. Shortly afterwards, prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced a four stage alert system for Covid-19. The alert system sets out how each and every one of us can stop the spread of this virus in New Zealand. Even though most of us will only experience a mild to moderate version of Covid-19, many of our whānau, friends and colleagues may not. That’s why it’s so important we take this virus seriously, and all play our … Read More

How testing for Covid-19 works - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 18, 2020

With confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand up to 12, many influential people are writing open letters and opinion pieces and doing press conferences asking why we aren’t pulling out all the stops and testing thousands of people a day like they are in South Korea. The thing is, testing for Covid-19 isn’t like a pregnancy test. You don’t just pee on a stick, wait a few minutes and get a result. Allow me to explain. Step 1: Take a sample To test for Covid-19 you first need the right samples, and these will differ depending on the person and the symptoms they present with. So, the first important thing is whether the right sample is taken by a competent person. To scale up our testing we would have to put resources into making sure we had enough people … Read More

After ‘Flatten the Curve’, we must now ‘Stop the Spread’. Here’s what that means - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 14, 2020

Spinoff cartoonist Toby Morris and I recently introduced you to the concept of #FlattenTheCurve. Now we want to get you thinking about a more ambitious idea: #StopTheSpread. But first, a quick recap. During an outbreak, if we can’t control the spread of the disease, then the number of sick people quickly rises. For Covid-19 we know this: about two out of every 10 people will need to be hospitalised for between two and six weeks. About one in 20 people will end up in intensive care, and one in a hundred will need a ventilator to help them breathe. But we only have so many hospital and intensive care beds and ventilators. And they aren’t just sitting around waiting for an outbreak. Lots of them are already being used to care for people with things other than Covid-19. In New … Read More

The three phases of Covid-19 – and how we can make it manageable - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 09, 2020

In a post last week, I showed you a picture of how the Covid-19 outbreak has played out in China. It was a graph of the number of cases reported each day, something we call an epidemic curve. It looked a bit like this. We can use the epidemic curve as a visual way to think about how Covid-19 could go, both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally. Toby Morris, The Spinoff. But before we get to that, let me just explain epidemic curves in a little more detail. First, they have three parts: a start (phase one), a middle (phase two), and an end (phase three). Each of these phases is influenced by different things. Such as, how infectious is the virus or bacterium? How is it transmitted? Is it person-to-person, or from eating or drinking? … Read More

How to get rid of Covid-19 from surfaces the right way - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 07, 2020

This week several more people in New Zealand have been confirmed to have contracted Covid-19, and the number of confirmed cases globally is approaching 100,000. We’ve been talking a lot about how this coronavirus is droplet spread so here’s the answers to a few questions people have been asking about that. But before I get on to that, I just want to mention that a paper has just been published that shows that this coronavirus can be found on surfaces in hospital rooms where people with Covid-19 were being treated. The good news is that they also sampled the air and didn’t find the virus there – in other words, it’s not likely to be airborne. And the other good news is that they weren’t able to find the virus in those same rooms after they had been … Read More

Can you catch Covid-19 from someone without symptoms? - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 05, 2020

The Ministry of Health yesterday announced a second person in Aotearoa New Zealand has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Just like our first, this person has contracted the virus overseas. This time it was during a trip to Northern Italy. The woman, in her 30s, had travelled with her partner, who has been tested. At the time of writing his results were imminent. It wouldn’t surprise me if we end up with a few more confirmed cases connected with this latest one, as it sounds as though the person may have been out and about for the last few days even though they weren’t feeling all that great. If we end up with an outbreak here, this is how it is probably going to happen. With us “soldiering on” when we should … Read More

A glance at the global spread of Covid-19, beyond China - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 05, 2020

We are now clearly dealing with a very serious global threat, as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 reaches over 93,000, with more than 3,000 deaths. As I noted recently, China now seems to have the outbreak under control. So, let’s take a look at what’s happening in a few other countries. Countries which currently have the largest number of cases outside of mainland China Let’s start with Italy, as this is the country our second confirmed-positive Kiwi came from. According to the Johns Hopkins virus tracker dashboard, there have been over 2,500 confirmed cases to date. Interestingly, Italy was one of the first countries that not only closed contact with Wuhan but also all air contact with China. In late January Italy confirmed their first few Covid-19 cases, all associated with … Read More

Coronavirus update: spread outside China and a new name - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 16, 2020

With over 69,000 confirmed cases and 1,600 deaths, here’s your round-up of the latest coronavirus news. New disease and virus have now officially been named On the 11th February, the WHO Director General announced a new name for the disease: COVID-19 which is short for coronavirus disease 2019. The naming follows the WHO’s commitment not to call diseases after people, places, or animals, to prevent stigma. The new virus itself also got a new name, decided on by the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Because the virus is closely related to the coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak, they’ve called this new virus SARS-CoV-2 – severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2. Plenty of people online are wondering if this was the right call seeing as the virus is actually more closely … Read More

Coronavirus: travel restrictions now in place for New Zealand - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 02, 2020

With reports that several people in New Zealand have been tested for suspected coronavirus – they were all negative – and the WHO declaring the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, our government has just announced entry restrictions for foreign nationals arriving from or transiting through mainland China.   A Public Health Emergency of International Concern Concerned that the coronavirus will spread to countries that do not have health systems to cope with the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has declared the outbreak in China a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This is a formal declaration by the WHO that the outbreak is a health risk and may require an international coordinated response to deal with. Under the 2005 International Health Regulations, when a declaration like this … Read More