What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. These can range from the common cold to more serious diseases. COVID-19 is the disease caused by a new coronavirus. It was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China.
How it spreads
The virus can spread from person to person through:
- close contact with an infectious person (including in the 24 hours before they started showing symptoms)
- contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face
COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is no existing immunity in our community. This means that COVID-19 could spread widely and quickly.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly.
People with coronavirus may experience:
- flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue
- shortness of breath
If you are concerned you may have COVID-19, use the symptom checker on healthdirect.
How to seek medical attention
If you are sick and think you have symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical attention. If you want to talk to someone about your symptoms first, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice.
Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080
Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You will be asked to take precautions when you attend for treatment. Follow the instructions you are given.
If you have a mask, wear it to protect others. Stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Cover your coughs or sneezes with your elbow.
Tell the doctor about:
- your symptoms
- any travel history
- any recent contact with someone who has 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
There is a global shortage of the test kits that pathologists use to diagnose COVID-19. This is why they are doing targeted testing instead of widespread testing.
It may take a few days for the test results to come back.
If you have serious symptoms you will be kept in hospital and isolated from other patients to prevent the virus spreading.
If your doctor says you are well enough to go home while you wait for your test results, you should:
- self-isolate at home and do not attend work or school
- protect yourself and others
Learn more about what happens if you have a suspected case of coronavirus.
There is no treatment for COVID-19, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.
Antibiotics do not work on viruses.
Resource(s):Australian Government, Department of Health: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19#what-is-covid19healthdirect: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-symptoms-and-how-the-virus-spreads-faqs
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