Professor Finfer’s research focuses on sepsis – a condition in which the body’s immune response to infection starts to damage tissues and organs. Without fast treatment, it can lead to death or ongoing health issues.
“People who are dying of coronavirus disease in intensive care units are dying of sepsis,” he said. “The coronavirus infects the lungs, and in severe cases, leads to sepsis resulting in kidney, liver and other organs failing.”
A professorial fellow at The George Institute for Global Health, Professor Finfer says the pandemic is “uncharted territory”.
The intensive-care specialist has seen seriously ill patients with the disease at Sydney’s Adventist and Royal North Shore hospitals and said that with no vaccine yet, large protests, football crowds and mass travel were “not a good idea”.
“If you sent me free tickets to the grand final, I wouldn’t go, if it was tomorrow,” Professor Finfer said.
“I wouldn’t put myself in a large crowd of people. It would not make sense.”
Asked about the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19, Professor Finfer said: “We are in very uncharted territory. Because we have got much better surveillance systems than we used to have, we know what’s happening in the community, we’re testing people, we have better restriction on travel,” he said.
“But we’ve seen overseas a single superspreader of the virus in a church service or a large gathering can result in many hundreds of infections.”
Professor Finfer said restrictions were being gradually loosened, but given the virus’ incubation period, it could take weeks before the extent of the spread was known.
We should loosen restrictions “in a staged, controlled manner whilst measuring the effects”, Professor Finfer said.
“If we do it too quickly, we’ll end up with more cases than we should have had, and that will translate to more deaths than we could have had.”
Another AO recipient is Emeritus Professor Garry Brown, originally from Adelaide, who rose from a 1964 Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University to become chair of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University in the 1990s.
Currently a visiting professor at the University of Melbourne, he has worked on US missile defence systems, correcting ship vibrations and failures in woodchip loading systems.
Professor Brown says he is proud of his own past students, including Adelaide-born astronaut Andy Thomas.
Melbourne plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Russell Corlett was appointed to a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order Australia for his 35 years volunteering with medical charity Interplast.
Dr Corlett trains surgeons and operates on disadvantaged patients in Asian and Pacific countries, which he said was “very rewarding”.
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.