WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AND HOW DOES IT SPREAD?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that make people sick. The common cold is a type of coronavirus. COVID-19 is the disease that comes from being infected with the ‘new’ or ‘novel’ coronavirus.
COVID-19 is a lot more dangerous than most other viruses including the flu. This means that it spreads quickly and causes serious illness more readily.
The World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020 due to its rapid spread throughout the world.
The most common symptoms are fever, cough, tiredness, sore throat, and shortness of breath. Check your symptoms using the HealthDirect symptom checker:
The Coronavirus is most likely to spread from person-to-person by:
- Close contact with a person while they are infectious
- Close contact with an infected person who coughs or sneezes
- Contact with contaminated surfaces
- Exposure to airborne particles containing the virus.
It may be impossible to know if a person, surface, or room is infectious. Which is why the current public health recommendations are so important. Learn more here.
PREVENTION – PROTECTING YOURSELF AND THE COMMUNITY
There are some critical things we can all do to protect ourselves and others:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue. Dispose of tissues in a rubbish bin with a lid. If you do not have a tissue, cough, and sneeze into the bend of your elbow or in your upper sleeve
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
- Keeping 1.5 metres distance from people who you don’t live with. 1.5 metres is approximately 2 adult arms lengths
- Avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing
- Avoid crowds and large public gatherings
- Self-isolation – if you have any symptoms, stay home and try to distance yourself from your housemates and loved ones at home. It is recommended in most states to have a COVID test in case of any symptoms. If you have COVID-19 or health authorities suspect you have it, you will need to self-isolate and this is critically important.
- Masks and face coverings – masks can be an added level of protection in situations where it is more difficult to keep your physical distance.
These measures and our responsibility to follow them are all the more important to keep the members of our community who are most vulnerable as safe as possible. People most vulnerable are considered to be:
- The elderly
- People with multiple complex or severe chronic disease
- People with low immunity. This could be defined by many things, so it is important to discuss your individual circumstances with your doctor.
Each state will impose its own public health measures on top of those recommended by the Australian government and it will be important to stay aware and abide by these.
Learn more about prevention and protection here.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP?
If you have any common cold symptoms – fever, new cough, tiredness, sore throat, runny or blocked nose, or altered taste or smell– contact your doctor. If you have trouble breathing, along with any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor quickly. If you notice yourself feeling different at all, more tired than usual, or if your loved ones notice a change in your appearance, these are good reasons to speak to your doctor also.
All general practices are asking patients to call ahead so they can decide how to keep you and other patients safe during your appointment. Occasionally practices might refer you to other services and clinics in case your situation needs specific skills or resources, like testing for the Coronavirus.
If you have trouble breathing and can’t get an appointment easily, we recommend attending an emergency department as soon as possible. Again, please call ahead. If you have severe trouble breathing or don’t have someone with you, call triple zero (000).