There has been a lot of media coverage on the COVID-19 coronavirus since it was first reported late last year. But what is it exactly and do we need be alarmed?
In this month’s blog, we take a closer look at what is known about the COVID-19 coronavirus to date and help to answer some of the main questions you may have.
What is a coronavirus?
The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word for crown. It refers to the appearance of the virus particles on the surface that look similar to crown like spikes.
According to the World Health Organization, a coronavirus is part of a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The recently identified COVID-19 virus is a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. This means it is a new strain that has not previously been identified in humans.
The COVID-19 novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Provence in China in late December 2019.
For a useful summary of the COVID-19 coronavirus to date, you can watch this video from the World Health Organisation>>
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild illness to pneumonia. However, the most common signs of infection include:
- Sore Throat
- Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
In more severe cases, the virus can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Some people will recover easily from the virus, while others may get very sick very quickly.
At this stage, there is no treatment or vaccine available for COVID-19. However, health professionals globally are actively working towards developing a treatment and vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus.
How does it spread?
Experts believe that the virus originated in an animal species and then spread to humans, with person to person spread now occurring.
While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, including how it is spread and its severity, it is thought that the virus is most likely spread through:
- close contact with an infectious person;
- contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze; and
- 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.
Where has the virus spread so far?
As of 17th February 2020, most cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Wuhan City in Hubei Province in China, where the virus originated. The virus has been identified in 25 countries outside of China, including Australia.
There have been 15 known cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with no reported cases to date in Western Australia. All reported cases in Australia have either recovered or are in a stable condition and have come from Wuhan, except one in New South Wales who had contact in China with a confirmed case in Wuhan.
In Australia, those most at risk of getting the virus are those who have recently been in mainland China OR been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case of coronavirus.
How can I protect myself against the virus?
The best way to protect yourself from any form of illness is to practice good hygiene. This includes:
- washing your hands often with soap and water;
- using a tissue and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze;
- throwing used tissues into a closed bin straight away;
- avoiding close contact with others, such as touching;
- avoid spitting in public; and
- seeking early medical attention if you begin experiencing any fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
If you are planning to travel to any country where cases of coronavirus have been identified, make sure you check the Australian Government SmartTraveller website for the latest travel advice and recommendations for your chosen destination.
Current advice for Australians
The current advice for Australians is to remain alert but not alarmed.
If you have:
- travelled overseas to mainland China in the last 14 days (including in transit);
- had close contact with someone who has travelled overseas to mainland China in the last 14 days; OR
- had close contact in the last 14 days with someone who has been diagnosed with or suspected of having coronavirus;
AND you feel UNWELL or have ANY of the symptoms outlined above, seek medical attention.
Make sure you call ahead to your doctor before making a booking or visiting your local medical practice, and let them know your symptoms and recent travel history.
If you are a patient at Illawarra Medical Centre and concerned about any illness or symptoms, please contact us on (08) 9208 6400.
For further information and to remain up-to-date on the status of the COVID-19 coronavirus, visit:
- Australian Government Department of Health – https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
- Department of Health, Western Australia – https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus
- SmartTraveller – https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/news-and-updates/novel-coronavirus-outbreak
- World Health Authority – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019