CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – HOW IT SPREADS

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.

It may be impossible to know if a person or surface is infectious which is why personal hygiene – regular hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, maintaining clean environments, social distancing and self-isolation is so important and can be effective in reducing transmission within the community. See more below.

PREVENTION – HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

The best way protect yourself against coronavirus infection is to avoid contact with people and environments which might be infected or contaminated by the virus.

This includes washing hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or with an alcohol based hand sanitiser and maintaining good social distancing practices.

Social distancing for people who are well means keeping at least 1.5 metres (approximately two arms lengths) between yourself and others at all times. It also means not engaging in any unnecessary social activities. Visits to the supermarket, pharmacies and medical appointments, attending school and work are considered acceptable activities.

If you have a long term medical condition like asthma, it is important to do everything you can to maintain good control including taking your regular preventer medicines as prescribed, ensuring your asthma action plan is up to date, useful and you understand how to use it, managing and avoiding your other known triggers where possible, managing and living well with your other long term conditions and making good lifestyle choices around diet and exercise and avoiding risky behaviours like smoking. Vaccination against the influenza virus is also recommended as soon as it’s available in Australia.

And as usual, it’s important that you have a spare supply of your reliever and preventer medicines. Currently we’re recommending one month of supply.

The federal and state governments are predicting this week that there will be a relaxing of the restriction levels across the country. This is good news and indication that the authorities have this epidemic under control which should give us all confidence and reassurance. However, it’s critical that we don’t become too complacent and enable another rapid spread of the virus in our communities. Asthma Australia still recommends that Australian’s are vigilant with their hygiene practices, continue to do regular handwashing, keep surfaces clean, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth without clean hands and protect others by not interacting when they’ve got cough and cold symptoms.

PREVENTION – HOW TO PROTECT THE COMMUNITY AGAINST CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

In these difficult times many of us are feeling a loss of control but actually we all have some control over how this virus will impact our community and its most vulnerable members. And this will come down to how well we follow the hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation directions provided by the government.

People who are unwell should practice strict self-isolation and avoid any unnecessary contact with others including school, work, public transport. This also includes extended family and friend networks. Refer to ‘when to seek medical help’ (above) for information to help you work out when to seek medical help for you or loved ones.

For the general public, the Australian Department of Health and various state health departments have directed us to practice strict social distancing measures. This means:

  • Maintaining approximately 1.5 metres (approximately 2 arms lengths) between you and the nearest person
  • Avoiding non-essential activities and travel
  • Avoiding physical and close contact with people more vulnerable to the development of serious symptoms (elderly, people with multiple complex or severe chronic disease, people with low immunity and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People)
  • Essential gatherings outdoors and indoors must not be greater than 2 people who ensure approximately 1.5 metres (2 arms lengths) distance between each other

To improve the likelihood that social distancing will be successful, the government has ordered the closure of several community institutions. Please find full list here.

There are specific instructions around weddings and funerals; hairdressers and barbers; bootcamps and personal training and hotels, bed and breakfast, campsites, caravan parks and boarding houses. View more specifics.

Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Stay home when you are sick and avoid contact with others
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the bin
    • If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow or in your upper sleeve.
    • Wash hands thoroughly, regularly, after toilet, before and after eating and after coughing/sneezing or blowing nose:
      • With soapy water for 20 seconds
      • With alcohol-based hand sanitiser
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Should I wear a face mask?

The use of a specially constructed mask, known as N95 or P2 mask is recommended for people who have symptoms to protect others. If symptomatic, people need to self-isolate and not interact closely with others. If they need to travel to medical appointments, or are living in close confines with others, using a mask is important.

For health care professionals who are frequently in contact with people in health care facilities, masks are a necessary part of their personal protective equipment and an important defence to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

For people who are otherwise well, the Federal Government does not recommend the use of masks for routine activities. However, some people are being advised, and have indicated they feel more comfortable, to wear masks when out in public. On these occasions, it is reasonable to do so but to remain vigilant about the other more important measures to reduce spread, like frequent handwashing, keeping surfaces clean, respecting the social distancing advice. The use of a mask can be problematic where it results in people touching their face more, to adjust the mask, take it off and on. If using a mask,

  • Face masks need to be used correctly and safely or you could increase risk, for example by regularly touching and adjusting the mask around the face, not throwing out a disposable mask after use, or not separating and washing a breathable and reuseable mask appropriately)
  • The recommended masks are surgical masks, N95 or P2 masks. Non-surgical masks made from breathable fabric can also be effective to reduce risk of transmission but are not as effective at protecting against airborne transmission
  • Be aware that some N95 masks are made with a one-way valve which is designed to protect you from inhaling virus but doesn’t protect others from you. If using these masks, to protect others, it’s advised to cover them with another basic surgical mask to filter your breath as it leaves you
  • See the WHO video on how to use masks correctly: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

If using a mask, you should not consider it a reason to relax your other protective behaviours.

Visit Department of Health for further information on face masks.

AM I AT RISK?

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are those who have:

  • been in contact with a person with COVID-19
  • recently been overseas
  • been in correctional or detention facilities
  • lived in residential care settings.

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.

According to the Commonwealth Department of Health, the people most at risk of serious infection are:

  • People with low immunity (e.g. cancer)
  • People aged 70 years or older
  • People aged 65 years or older with chronic medical conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years or older with one or more chronic medical condition.

Asthma Australia calls on the community to look out for people who fall into the above categories and take the following steps to reduce the risk that the people most vulnerable in our community are protected:

  • Maintain good social distancing and personal hygiene with regular handwashing
  • Older people should stay at home and avoid contact with others
  • We all must help older people with medicine and grocery delivery
  • There are supports available to older people who are isolated
  • Where possible make frequent contact with our older loved ones
  • Older people who experience breathing difficulties should contact their doctor. Both worsening or new asthma as well as COVID-19 can cause new breathlessness in older people and it’s important that these symptoms are properly investigated if they occur. these symptoms are thoroughly examined by a doctor if they occur.

The risk COVID-19 poses for people with asthma is not clearly understood yet. We recommend that people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses are aware of the measures that they can adopt to avoid infection, stay generally well and maximise their asthma control.