Working on the front lines of coronavirus outbreaks has shown Bendigo Health epidemiologist Jenny Dittmer how strong Victoria's communities are.
Ms Dittmer started working with Bendigo Health earlier this year but recently spent a week assisting health teams in Shepparton has COVID-19 took hold of the rural community.
She was on hand to help gather and break down data in an effort to allow health teams to decide how best to handle the outbreak.
"An epidemiologist looks at all the data and makes sense of the numbers to provide advice and reporting around the information," she said. "We give context around the numbers but (also) the ability to bring (the numbers together as well.
"Shepparton don't have epidemiologist but they still did amazing job in tracking their families and locking everyone down. But they had to make decisions around what was safe to open up, and they didn't have data around that.
"It's hard to make risk-based decisions with out that data, so I went in and helped with that."
Ms Dittmer's job relies on her making the biggest impact she can in a short amount of time.
"It can be hard but also really exciting," she said. "It's interesting to be at the coalface where it is really happening. (Epidemiologists) work as part of the state system (but) if Bendigo happened to get case, our focus would shift quickly back to our patch.
"While our patch is safe, we help across the system, which is why Bendigo Health was happy for me to go to Shepparton. If we keep Shepparton safe and the outbreak under control, it keeps us safe as well.
"Shepparton is a big risk being 90 minutes away, so any way we can help across the system helps keep our region safe as well."
While Ms Dittmer could never imagine seeing the world in a pandemic as serious as the coronavirus outbreak, she said her lecturers at university warned the world was overdue for a pandemic.
"I did a microbiology degree before I was an epidemiologist and every lecture I went to said we were well overdue for pandemic," she said. "It was not if but when we have one and the vibe was it would be flu-based.
"Did I know it would be coronavirus? Absolutely not. Did i think would be like this? No. Even looking at Spanish Influenza, you can't compare this to that.
"How quickly we have started vaccinating people and to have one available is incredible. To go from identifying the virus to a plausible vaccine in peoples arms in 12 to 18 months, no one could have predicted we could do that."
Ms Dittmer said the scary part of the pandemic was beginning as the world opened up.
"(Vaccines) give us the ability to shift how we respond to the pandemic, which we are starting to do at the moment," she said. "It is interesting to be in a space as we are shifting and getting to point where maybe we won't be lockdown as much.
"I think the reality is we would always have to open up and will always have to accept a certain level of serious disease and death. That is kind of scary because so far we have worked to keep deaths to the very minimum. But to get to point where we are saying 'this level of death is acceptable', is a double edged sword.
"We can't, as an economy or society, maintain what we are doing but the shift to acceptable disease and death and the stress that puts on the health service is difficult to accept."
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