• If you are having trouble breathing, call 000 immediately. Tell the person on the phone if you have recently been to Mainland China, Italy, Iran, South Korea or if you have been in contact with a known case of coronavirus.
  • If the following Symptom Checker tool advises you to visit your doctor or go to the emergency department, call before you visit so that you can notify them of your symptoms and travel history.

Here you can find all the information you should know about the novel coronavirus (now officially known as COVID-19).

What is the novel coronavirus and where did it come from?
How is the novel coronavirus spread?
How dangerous is the novel coronavirus?
What are the signs and symptoms of the novel coronavirus?
How can I protect myself against the novel coronavirus?
How is the novel coronavirus treated and managed?
When should I consider isolating myself?
Busting the myths: Some common misconceptions
How can I stay informed?

What is the novel coronavirus and where did it come from? 

The 2019 novel coronavirus is the new strain of coronavirus never previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses found in both humans and animals. Other examples of coronaviruses are Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).[1]

The virus was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019.  According to the World Health Organization, it’s probable that the first reported novel coronavirus infections in humans came from an animal source from a live animal market.[1]

How is the novel coronavirus spread?

There are still a number of unknowns about how the 2019 novel coronavirus is spread. Our current knowledge is based on what we already know about the family of coronaviruses.[2]

Typically, coronaviruses can be spread from person-to-person among close contacts (i.e. less than 2 metres). Person-to-person spread is believed to mainly happen via respiratory droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people in close proximity and can potentially be inhaled into the lungs.[2]

As with most respiratory viruses, it is thought that people are most contagious when they are at their most symptomatic.[2]

How dangerous is the novel coronavirus?

Just like with other respiratory viruses, infection with the 2019 novel coronavirus can result in mild symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. For some people, it can become more severe and may lead to pneumonia and difficulty breathing. Older people and people with pre-existing medical issues (such as heart disease or diabetes) appear to be at a greater risk of developing severe disease. Rarely, the disease can be fatal.[1]

What are the signs and symptoms of the novel coronavirus?

Symptoms can range from mild flu-like illness to pneumonia. Symptoms include:[3]

  • Coughing, sneezing, sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath

How can I protect myself against the novel coronavirus?

  • Wash your hands with soap and water: This gets rid of the virus if it is on your hands.
  • Maintain your distance from others: Stay at least 2 metres from other people who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose: This will prevent spread from your hands to your face.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible: If you have a fever, cough, or trouble breathing, seek immediate medical attention. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have recently been to China, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has recently come from China.[1]

How is the novel coronavirus treated and managed?

Like other viruses, there is no specific treatment for the novel coronavirus. Most mild symptoms can be treated with supportive medical care, such as paracetamol, staying hydrated and rest.[1,3]

There is currently no vaccination. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.[1,3]

When should I consider isolating myself?

The Australian Government advises that you MUST isolate yourself (i.e. stay at home and avoid close contact with family and friends) if:[3]

  • You have travelled from Hubei Province within the past 2 weeks. In this case, you must isolate yourself until 2 weeks have passed since leaving Hubei Province.
  • You have left, or transited through, mainland China after 31 January 2020. In this case, you must isolate yourself until 2 weeks have passed since leaving China.
  • You have been in close contact with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. In this case, you must isolate yourself until 2 weeks have passed since you last made contact with the confirmed case.

Busting the myths: Some common misconceptions

Is it safe to receive a letter or package from China?
Yes, it is safe. Coronaviruses do not survive long on objects such as packages.[4]

Can pets spread the virus?
Currently there is no evidence to suggest that pets can spread the 2019 novel coronavirus.[4]

Do vaccines against pneumonia protect against the virus?
No. These vaccines protect against other micro-organisms (e.g. the pneumococcal vaccine protects against pneumococcus) but not against the 2019 novel coronavirus.[4]

Does the new coronavirus only affect older people?
No. People of all ages can be infected by the 2019 novel coronavirus.[4]

How can I stay informed?

The latest Australian government information and relevant updates on the novel coronavirus can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website. Further information can also be found on each of the State and Territory Health Department websites.

Useful Australian Government Department of Health resources on the novel coronavirus can be found here.

For information about how the novel coronavirus may impact your travel plans, please check the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller website.

For the latest global information on the novel coronavirus, check out the World Health Organization’s situation reports.

Get general information about the coronavirus from the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

 

References

  1. World Health Organization (online). Q&A on coronaviruses [accessed 7 Feb 2020]. Available from: URL link
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (online). 2019 Novel Coronavirus: How It Spreads [accessed 7 Feb 2020]. Available from: URL link
  3. Australian Government Department of Health (online). Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) [accessed 7 Feb 2020]. Available from: URL link
  4.   World Health Organization (online). Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) advice for the public: Myth busters [accessed 7 Feb 2020]. Available from: URL link