What is the COVID-19 virus?
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. It was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, where it has caused a large and ongoing outbreak. It has since spread more widely in China. Cases have since been identified in several other countries. The COVID-19 virus is closely related to a bat coronavirus.
There is much more to learn about how COVID-19 is spread, its severity, and other features associated with the virus; epidemiological and clinical investigations are ongoing. Outbreaks of new coronavirus infections among people are always a public health concern. The situation is evolving rapidly.
How is the virus spread?
Human coronaviruses are spread from someone infected with COVID-19 virus to other close contacts with that person through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.
The time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically 5 to 6 days, although may range from 2 to 14 days. For this reason, people who might have been in contact with a confirmed case are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Most COVID-19 cases appear to be spread from people who have symptoms. A small number of people may have been infectious before their symptoms developed.
How long does COVID-19 last on surfaces?
According to the World Health Organization, it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that corona-viruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
What are the symptoms?
Patients may have fever, loss of taste, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and other symptoms.
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.
Is there a cure or vaccine?
There are no vaccines that protect against COVID-19 at this time.
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Early diagnosis and general supportive care are important. Most of the time, symptoms will resolve on their own. People who have serious disease with complications can be cared for in hospital.
How do I get tested for COVID-19?
The Department of Health is recommending people with acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss or change in sense of smell or taste) OR close contacts of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), Returned overseas travel in the past 14 days, Health care or aged care workers and Residents of an aged care facility or older people* in the community be tested for COVID-19.
* Older people may present with other atypical symptoms including functional decline, delirium, exacerbation of underlying chronic condition, falls, loss of appetite, malaise, nausea, diarrhoea and myalgia.
This testing can takes only a couple of days to complete and report back.