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COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath. The virus can spread from person to person, but good hygiene can prevent infection. Find out who is at risk and what you should do if you think you have COVID-19.

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.

Other coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Symptoms

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:

  • fever
  • 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

Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

1800 020 080

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help.

 

To seek medical help from a doctor or hospital, call ahead of time to book an appointment.

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

Testing

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 we are doing targeted testing instead of widespread testing.

After 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:

For questions about testing or patient welfare, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line.

 

Coronavirus Health Information Line

Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

1800 020 080

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help.

 

Learn more about what happens if you have a suspected case of coronavirus.

Treatment

There is no treatment for COVID-19, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.

Antibiotics do not work on viruses.

Self-isolation (self-quarantine)

You must self-isolate if any of the following applies to you:

  • you have COVID-19
  • you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • you arrived in Australia after midnight on 15 March 2020

If you do not need to self-isolate, you should still protect yourself and others.

How to self-isolate

Self-isolation lasts for 14 days

You must stay at home to prevent the possible spread of the virus to other people.

See specific advice for self-isolation when:

Staying home means you:

  • do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
  • ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
  • do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
  • do not need to wear a mask in your home, but do wear one if you have to go out (for example to seek medical attention)
  • should stay in touch by phone and online with your family and friends

Going outside

If you live in a private house, it is safe for you to go into your garden or courtyard. If you live in an apartment or are staying in a hotel, it is also safe for you to go into the garden but you should wear a surgical mask to minimise risk to others. You should also move quickly through common areas. 

This helps protect yourself and others

Monitor symptoms

When in isolation, monitor yourself for symptoms.

What to do if you get sick

Call your doctor for an urgent assessment if you develop symptoms within 14 days of returning to Australia, or within 14 days of last contact of a confirmed case.

See advice for others living with you

Managing isolation

Being in isolation for 14 days can be stressful and boring. Suggestions include:

  • keep in touch with family members and friends via telephone, email or social media
  • learn about COVID-19 and talk with others
  • reassure young children using age-appropriate language
  • where possible, keep up normal daily routines, such as eating well and exercise
  • arrange to work from home
  • ask your child’s school to supply assignments or homework by post or email
  • do things that help you relax and use isolation as an opportunity to do activities you don’t usually have time for

Advice for others living with you

if you are not well, others that live with you do not need to self-isolate unless they also meet one of the isolation criteria.

However, if you develop symptoms and are suspected to have COVID-19, they will be classified as close contacts and will need to be isolated.

Returning to your community

People who have completed their 14 day period without developing symptoms can return to their daily activities.

See our guidance in EnglishSimplified ChineseTraditional ChineseFarsi and Korean.

Protect yourself and others

To help reduce the spread and protect those who are most at risk, it is important that you take the recommended steps to protect yourself and others.

To prevent the spread of viruses, practise good hygiene and social distancing.

You should also follow our advice for travellers and advice for public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups.

Good hygiene

Everyone must practise good hygiene to protect against infection and prevent the virus spreading.

Good hygiene includes:

  • covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
  • disposing of tissues properly
  • washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • if you are sick, avoiding contact with others and staying more than 1.5 metres away from people
  • cleaning and sanitising frequently used objects such as mobiles, keys and wallets

Read more about protective measures against coronavirus on the World Health Organization website.

If you have a confirmed case, you need to self-isolate to prevent it spreading to other people.

Surgical masks

Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others.

If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask. There is little evidence that widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people prevents transmission in public.

Find out more in our fact sheet about the use of surgical masks.

Vaccination

There is no vaccine for COVID-19, but there is one for the flu.

You should get your flu shot when it’s available. Getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time can make you very ill.

Scientists from around the world are working on developing a vaccine. The World Health Organisation believes this may be available within 18 months.

Social distancing

One way to slow the spread of viruses is social distancing. There are practical things you can do, to protect those more susceptible to the virus.

Households

  • Practice good hand and cough/sneeze hygiene
  • Avoid handshaking and other physical greetings
  • Regularly clean shared high-touch surfaces, such as tables, kitchen benches and doorknobs
  • Increase the amount of fresh air by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning
  • Buy more goods and services online so you limit visits to the shop
  • Consider what travel and outings are necessary, both individual and family, and go to open places such as parks

Social distancing in the workplace

To reduce the spread of germs in the workplace:

  • Stay at home if you are sick
  • Consider if large gatherings can be rescheduled, staggered or cancelled
  • Stop handshaking and other physical greetings
  • Hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call
  • Reconsider non-essential business travel
  • Defer large face-to-face meetings
  • Hold essential meetings outside in the open air if possible
  • Promote good hand and cough/sneeze hygiene and provide hand sanitisers for all staff and workers
  • Take lunch outside rather than in the lunch room
  • Clean and disinfect shared high-touch surfaces regularly
  • Consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more fresh air
  • Limit food handling and shared food in the workplace
  • Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts

Social distancing in schools

To reduce the spread of germs or viruses in schools:

  • If your child is sick, do not send them to school (or childcare)
  • Clean hands when entering school and at regular intervals
  • Defer activities that lead to mixing between classes and years
  • Avoid queuing, handholding and assemblies
  • Promote a regular handwashing schedule
  • Clean and disinfect shared high-touch surfaces regularly
  • Conduct lessons outdoors where possible
  • Consider opening windows and adjusting conditioning for more fresh air
  • Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts

Find out more about social distancing and avoiding public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups.

Who is most at risk

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

  • recently been in in a high risk country or region (mainland China, Iran, Italy or Korea)
  • been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19

Based on what we know about coronaviruses, those most at risk of serious infection are:

  • people with compromised immune systems (such as people who have cancer)
  • elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness)
  • people with chronic medical conditions
  • people in group residential settings
  • people in detention facilities

To help protect people most at risk, we have recommended limits on public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups.

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.

To help reduce the spread and protect those who are most at risk, it is important that you take the recommended steps to protect yourself and others.

Resources

See our answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19

To find out more, see our English COVID-19 resources and translated COVID-19 resources.

For what we are doing to limit the spread of COVID-19, go to Government response to the outbreak.

Support

Support is available if you are concerned about COVID-19 or are distressed because you are in self-quarantine or sick.

Visit the Head to Health website for:

  • links to mental health online and phone support
  • resources and services that can help if you’re experiencing mental health concerns or trying to support someone else

Source: https://www.health.gov.au/news