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Austria to roll out nationwide rapid testing in schools

Austria has approved a plan to use rapid coronavirus tests in schools across the country. The plan will involve mobile ‘test teams’ who visit schools where infections are suspected.

Austria to roll out nationwide rapid testing in schools
A mobile test bus operating a similar scheme in Portugal. Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

Under the plan, mobile test teams will be dispensed to schools across the country in the case of suspected coronavirus infections, reports ORF

Using rapid tests, people with symptoms can be tested for the virus with a result available in a few minutes. 

After the success of a pilot project in Lower Austria, Vienna, Tyrol and Carinthia, the scheme will be rolled out nationwide from December. 

EXPLAINED: How will Vienna's shipping container rapid testing plan work? 

Education Minister Heinz Faßmann on Wednesday that the goal of the scheme was to identify infections early and prevent disruptions in schools. 

“Suspected coronavirus cases should disrupt everyday school life as little as possible. If children or teachers wait a long time for a test or an assessment, this is anything but beneficial for the classroom. The negative effects are significant,” he said. 

Mobile test teams have been active in Vienna since September, where 5,900 people were tested, 3.5 percent of whom were positive. 

How does it work? 

Teachers or students who are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus can contact the testing teams, who are dispatched immediately. 

The team, which includes several “medical specialists” will conduct a rapid antigen test on the suspected case. The test results are then available in minutes. 

If the test is negative, the lesson can continue and no further tests or quarantines are necessary. 

If the test is positive, the local health authorities are informed and a process for quarantine measures is set in motion, with local health authorities deciding how to proceed. 

Students under 14 will need parental consent to be tested. 

“All in all, with these rapid tests we are relieving the children, parents, and school, because waiting has been extremely uncomfortable up to now,” said Faßmann. 

 

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

Austria's capital city Vienna has begun registration appointments for those who want to get a monkeypox vaccine. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

As of September 9th, people can make reservations for monkeypox vaccination in Vienna, authorities announced. It is possible to register for the vaccine using the health service line by calling 1450 or via the Impfservice website.

The City of Vienna has said the pre-registration is needed because all planning will be done through a central system due to a shortage of vaccines.

“Please understand that due to the vaccine shortage, we cannot offer preventive monkeypox vaccination to everyone interested. We can use the reservation platform to quickly allocate available appointments and contact interested parties as soon as there are more vaccines”, the authorities said.

After the registration, people will be contacted to book appointments on September 14th. The first available date will be September 19th.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Who should be vaccinated against monkeypox?

Vaccination of the general population is currently not recommended.

Preventive vaccination is only offered to health care workers with a very high risk of exposure to people with monkeypox (designated monkeypox departments/outpatient clinics/offices) and persons with individual risk behaviour (persons with frequently changing sexual contacts), the City of Vienna said.

The health authorities in Vienna also have a specific information sheet in English with more information on the disease.

Monkeypox is a notifiable disease caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus and which can cause a condition similar to smallpox but rarely deadly. People with immunodeficiencies, pregnant women and children are at risk of more severe symptoms.

The virus spreads from person to person through contact with infectious skin lesions, via air droplets through speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other body fluids, and when having prolonged and close physical contact, e.g. through sexual intercourse.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Usually, the first symptoms show up 5 to 14 days (at the latest, 21 days) after exposure. These include fever, general exhaustion, headaches, muscle and body aches, gastrointestinal problems and frequently painfully swollen lymph nodes.

“If you have symptoms and have had contact with someone with monkeypox, you must self-isolate at once and call 1450. If you have a confirmed monkeypox infection, you need to stay in self-isolation until the last crust has fallen off”, the Austrian authorities added.

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