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What you need to know about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is COVID-19

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause respiratory infections. These can range from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). This new coronavirus originated in Hubei Province, China and the disease caused by the virus is named COVID-19.

How is this coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:

  • Close contact with a person while they are infectious or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared.

  • Close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes.

  • Touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.

How can we help prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and keeping your distance from others when you are sick is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.

  • Cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

  • If unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).

  • Exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other colds and flus and include:

  • Fever

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty breathing

While coronavirus is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying these symptoms are likely suffering with a cold or other respiratory illness – not coronavirus.

What do I do if I develop symptoms?

If you develop symptoms within 14 days of arriving in Australia or within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed case, you should arrange to see your doctor for urgent assessment. You should telephone the health clinic or hospital before you arrive and tell them your travel history or that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus. You must remain isolated either in your home, hotel or a health care setting until public health authorities inform you it is safe for you to return to your usual activities.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

Your doctor will tell you if you should be tested. They will arrange for the test. You will only be tested if your doctor decides you meet the criteria:

  • You have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever

  • You have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever

  • You have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause

  • You are a healthcare worker who works directly with patients and you have a respiratory illness and a fever

If you meet any of these criteria, your doctor can request you are tested for COVID-19. It is important to remember that many people with symptoms similar to COVID-19 will not have the virus. Only suspected cases are tested to ensure our labs are able to cope with the demand. There is no need to test people who feel well and do not meet the criteria above.

Who needs to isolate?

All people who arrive in Australia from midnight 15 March 2020 or have been interstate, or think they may have been in close contact with a confirmed case of Corona Virus, are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Someone I live with is getting tested for COVID-19. Should I self-isolate and get tested as well?

If a household member is a suspected case, you may need to be isolated. This will be determined by your public health unit on a case-by-case basis. Your public health unit will contact you if you need to isolate.

What does isolate in your home mean?

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home to prevent it spreading to other people. You might also be asked to stay at home if you may have been exposed to the virus. Staying at home means you:

  • do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university

  • ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door

  • do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home

You do not need to wear a mask in your home. If you need to go out to seek medical attention, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others. You should stay in touch by phone and on-line with your family and friends.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing is one way to help slow the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. Social distancing includes staying at home when you are unwell, avoiding large public gatherings if they’re not essential, keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people whenever possible and minimising physical contact such as shaking hands, especially with people at higher risk of developing serious symptoms, such as older people and people with existing health conditions. There’s no need to change your daily routine, but taking these social distancing precautions can help protect the people in our community who are most at risk.

Who is most at risk of a serious illness?

Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily, and others may become very ill, very quickly. From previous experience with other coronaviruses, the people at most risk of serious infection are:

People with compromised immune systems (e.g. cancer).

  • Elderly people.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as they have higher rates of chronic illness.

  • People with chronic medical conditions.

  • People in group residential settings.

  • People in detention facilities.

  • Very young children and babies. At this stage the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population.

Should I be taking my kids out of childcare or school?

No, at this stage the Government recommends continuing essential daily activities including school and childcare. If your child is unwell, you should keep them home to avoid spreading their germs to others. So far, information from around the world indicates that children who develop COVID-19 have very mild symptoms and very little transmission appears to occur between children. Singapore is currently providing a strong example of the benefits of keeping child care and schools operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools should ensure their hygiene practices are appropriate and that children are educated about and encouraged to practice social distancing wherever possible.

Should I wear a face mask?

You do not need to wear a mask if you are healthy. While the use of masks can help to prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like coronavirus.

Further useful resources to keep up to date from the Australian Government.

The Australian Government have created a WhatsApp service to keep people informed and updated on the #COVID19 pandemic.

Click the link below on your mobile phone  http://aus.gov.au/whatsapp

 

The Australian Government has released an official app with the information you need to know about the response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Coronavirus Australia app is available from:

Apple App Store: apps.apple.com/au/app/coronavirus-australia/id1503846231

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