What you need to know about Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is the name for a new coronavirus that originated in Hubei Province, China in 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. Previous examples include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)i.

COVID-19 is the name for a new coronavirus that originated in Hubei Province, China in 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. Previous examples include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)i.

[i] Department of Health.


The initial symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are often very similar. They can both cause fever and similar respiratory symptoms, which can range from mild to severe. See below for a comparative guide. While these are similar, it has been found the COVID-19 has resulted in more severe and critical cases than the flu.

Both viruses are transmitted the same way, by sneezing or coughing, or by contact with hands, surfaces, or objectives that are contaminated by the virus. Therefore, it is important that you follow good hand hygiene, good respiratory etiquette, and good household cleaning behaviours.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to those of a cold or flu. They include:

  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing

Some patients may have very mild symptoms and, as such, may not associate their symptoms with COVID-19.

The infection period varies between people and can be dependent on their previous health status. Mild symptoms in an otherwise healthy person may only last a few days whereas for an individual with existing health issues such as a respiratory condition, recovery could take weeks. Severe cases can be fatal. 

COVID-19 is most likely spread from person to person contact. This includes:

  • Direct close contact with a person who is infectious, or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared
  • Close contact with a person who has a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes
  • Touching objects or surfaces such as door handles or tables, that are contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with COVID-19, and then touching your mouth or face.

In Australia, those most at risk of catching COVID-19 are those who have been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Those most at risk of a serious infection from COVID-19 are:

  • People with compromised immune systems, such as people with cancer
  • The elderly
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

People with chronic medical conditions like:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lung disease
  • People in group residential settings
  • People in detention facilities.

The best protection methods include practicing good hygiene and social distancing.

Good hygiene includes[i]:

  • Covering your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue
  • Disposing of tissues properly and promptly
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitiser, especially before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • If you are sick, avoid contact with others

We still need to social distance

Social distancing can help slow the spread of infectious diseases and is particularly important to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19. While practicing social distancing, people can travel to work (including public transport). For non-essential activities outside the workplace or attendance at schools, universities, and childcare, social distancing includes:

  • staying at home if you are unwell
  • avoiding large public gatherings and crowds if they are non-essential
  • avoiding small gatherings in enclosed spaces, for example, family celebrations
  • attempting to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and other people where possible, for example when you are out and about in a public place.
  • avoiding shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people
  • avoiding visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment.

 [i] NSW Government. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx#1-10

Having the flu and COVID-19 at the same time can make you very ill. It is therefore important to reduce risk of the flu, which can be done by receiving a flu vaccination. There are available from your local pharmacist. Visit your pharmacy to make an appointment or book online now. 

If a person develops any of the above symptoms, they should call the COVID-19 hotline on 1800 020 080, seek medical advice, and get tested. Testing can be done at a free COVID-19 respiratory clinic (https://widget.nhsd.healthdirect.org.au/v1/widget/search?widgetId=2bd9a3ab-54e6-4ddf-a9df-44fef0c2e81b&types=%5Bservices_types%5D%3Aall+services&filters=%5Bprograms%5D%3Acovid+19 ) or through your regular doctor.

Anyone who is sick and thinks they have the symptoms of COVID-19 should seek medical attention and get tested. If you’re not sure, contact your doctor or call the COVID-19 hotline on 1800 020 080

For the most up to date advice and guidelines related to COVID-19, please visit:
World Health Organisation – www.who.int

Australian Government Department of Health – www.health.gov.au

[1] Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions_3.pdf

[1] The Royal Women’s Hospital. https://www.thewomens.org.au/news/update-on-covid-19-from-the-womens-1603

[1] NSW Government. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx#1-10

[1] 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#getting-tested

[1] Meredith Health Group. https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/flatten-the-curve-meaning

[1] NSW Government. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx#1-10