Preventing the spread

The following information has been collated from resources provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and leading respiratory experts.

How does it spread?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through droplet transmission. Droplets are small pieces of saliva which are produced when a person coughs or sneezes.  Droplets usually travel no further than one metre through the air. You can become infected if: 

  • You have close contact with an infected person who coughs or sneezes.
  • You touch an object (e.g. door handle) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with COVID-19 and touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

Droplets cannot go through skin and can only lead to infection if they touch your mouth, nose or eyes. 

COVID-19 Door Poster
Those living with lung disease or lung cancer are at higher risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19. This poster, to be placed at the entry of a residence or workplace identifies that someone within the premises is living with a lung condition and requests that those entering undertake extra precautions.

Preventing the spread

Practising good hygiene is the best defence against most viruses.

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel. It is important to note that both soap and alcohol break virus particles apart, but in different ways.
  • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible.
  • Avoid touching your face, as this can transfer the virus from your hands to your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid touching other people, such as shaking hands or hugging. You can greet each other with a wave instead.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or a flexed elbow when you cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and wash your hands thoroughly or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.

Viral particles can last for some time on surfaces, so wiping down surfaces frequently and washing your hands afterwards is important.

Key advice

  • Reducing the spread in your home

    If people need to visit your home, ask them to wash their hands thoroughly on arriving, maintain physical distance from you and avoid touching anything unnecessarily. We’ve developed a poster that you can hang on your front door as a reminder to anyone who might be entering your home.

    Cleaning advice

    Health experts have recommended a series of practical steps for maintaining good hygiene at home to reduce the chance of the virus entering your home. These include:

    • Take off your shoes before you enter your home
    • Create a “station” to leave frequently touched items on – such as sunglasses, purses, wallets, keys and mobile phones
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds – do this often and thoroughly, especially after you have been outside your house
    • Wipe down items brought into your home with detergent or soapy water (e.g. take away containers)
    • Wash fresh produce with warm water
    • Wipe down frequently touched surfaces twice a day with detergent, this includes:
      • Tables
      • Doorknobs
      • Light switches
      • Countertops
      • Desks
      • Telephones and mobiles
      • Keyboards
      • Toilets
      • Faucets
      • Sinks
      • Pay special attention to the bathroom.

    There is a lot of inaccurate information available about which products you should be using to clean your home. Cleaning  and disinfecting is advised to help limit the spread of the virus and most everyday cleaning products will be suitable for thorough cleaning, but to kill the virus, a disinfectant is needed.

    Firstly, clean surfaces using a detergent and water and unsure you scrub diligently to remove dirt, grime and dust. Then, apply disinfectant to kill the virus, again scrubbing diligently. For the disinfectant to be as effective as possible, make sure it has contact with the surface for at least 5-10 minutes. Use a bleach-based solution or an alcohol-based solution with at least 70% alcohol. The Australian Department of Health says you should use a disinfectant that claims “antiviral activity” – meaning it can kill a virus, for example, chlorine-based disinfectants.

    It is important to note that natural cleaning products (e.g. vinegar) are not as effective as commercial cleaners and disinfectants. Most natural or “eco-cleaners” are unlikely to kill the virus. Be careful not to mix different cleaning products, as this can create dangerous solutions that are likely to be ineffective. Ensure you thoroughly wash any cloths you used to clean, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards.

    Download Cleaning Resource

  • Social distancing

    One way to slow the spread of viruses is social distancing. Social distancing refers to creating physical space between yourself and others. It’s currently advised that people maintain 1.5 metres distance between each other.

    “For a virus of respiratory nature, the predominate route of spread is by fine droplets which are distributed when a person coughs or sneezes. Keeping 1.5 meters distance from others reduces the risk of inhaling a fine droplet which could potentially carry the virus.”- Prof Christine Jenkins AM

    People with COVID-19 can appear well and may be unaware they have the virus, as some cases don’t show symptoms.  It is best to keep a distance from others to help minimise risk of exposure, this may include your family and friends.

    Lung Foundation Australia strongly supports the new social distancing restrictions announced by the Federal Government on 29 March 2020. Under the new restrictions people over 70, or over 60 living with a pre-existing condition, or indigenous people aged over 50 are to stay home wherever possible.

    To stay up to date with the latest announcements and for other resources, download the Australian Government  Coronavirus App – available through the Apple apps store and Google Play.

    How to maintain social distancing

    • Stay at home as much as possible. If you do have to go out, keep   distance of 1.5 metres from others.
    • Avoid using public transport where possible.
    • Ask people in your life who may be unwell to minimise contact with you.
    • Children can spread a range of respiratory infections and only display mild symptoms – whilst you may wish to help with taking care of grandchildren, you need to consider whether this is suitable during this time.
    • Ask family and friends for help to minimise your exposure but assisting with picking up your groceries or medication if delivery is not available for you.
    • Call your doctor for check-ups via telephone or video conferences, if suitable.
    • Work from home if you can.
    • Practice good hygiene by frequently washing your hands with soap and water.

    What to have at home 

    • An up-to-date Action Plan developed with your treating doctor to help you recognise when symptoms of your condition worsen and steps to manage them.  If you don’t have an action plan, download a template and organise an appointment with your doctor to work through it:  
    • An adequate supply of in-date medication – consult with your pharmacist. According to Medicines Australia, there is an adequate supply of medications in Australia to meet community needs, so there is no need to stockpile. Any potential issues relating to supply of essential medications will be addressed if they arise.  
    • Have current prescriptions for your regular medications on hand.  
    • If you require oxygen cylinders to manage your condition, contact your supplier and ask them to inform you of their supply and create a plan to continue to deliver oxygen to you during this time.  
    • Have a small stock of non-perishable groceries (i.e. canned goods and frozen foods) on hand so you are prepared if you are required to stay at home for an extended period, however, it is not necessary to stockpile. 
    • Supplies to keep your hands (i.e. soap, alcohol-based hand sanitiser) and home (i.e. disinfectant, cleaning cloths) clean.   
    • Other hygiene items such as toilet paper, tissues and feminine care products.    
    • Take note of other medical supplies you may need such as contact lenses, contact solution, hearing-aid batteries and over-the-counter medicines like pain relief.  
  • Socialising
    • Think about using other methods to socialise, such as telephone, email and social media to stay in touch with family, friends and neighbours. 
    • Plan to contact family and friends on different days so your social interactions can be spaced out across the week. 
    • Be creative: plan to watch television shows at the same time as friends and have a telephone conversation about it afterwards. 
    • If you are feeling socially isolated, don’t wait for someone to contact you – call a friend or a family member and discuss how you are feeling.  

    If you need to talk to someone urgently, Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis telephone counselling on 13 11 14. 

    We understand this is a difficult time for everyone which is only made harder by not being able to spend time with those closest to you. We have created a suite of information and resources to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing during this time.  

  • Work
    We encourage all Australians living with a lung condition to prioritise their health at this time. If you are living with a lung condition and are unable to work from home, speak with your employer about the measures that are being put in place to protect employees. Visit  Safe Work Australia website for advice for workers, along with information for employers and preparing workplaces.
  • Facemasks

    You don’t need to wear a mask if you are healthy. While the use of surgical masks can help to prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like COVID-19. 

    Wearing a facemask can make breathing more difficult. If you are living with a lung disease or lung cancer, seek advice from your treating doctor regarding the use of facemasks in minimising the risk of exposure. 

  • When to seek medical attention

    If you’re experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms, we strongly encourage you to self-isolate and seek medical attention as early as possible.

    COVID-19 symptoms include:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath

    It’s important to seek medical attention as early as possible if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. You should telephone your treating doctor or hospital before arrival and inform them of your pre-existing condition, as well as your travel history and if you may have been in contact with a potential case of coronavirus. You must remain isolated either in your home or a healthcare setting until public health authorities inform you it is safe for you to return to your usual activities.

    Have a plan if you get sick

    Consult with your treating healthcare team for more information about monitoring your health during this time. If you develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 and clearly explain you have a pre-existing lung condition. If you become sick due to a flare-up of symptoms or COVID-19, seek help and support from friends, family, neighbours and community health workers. If you caregiver gets sick or is self-isolating, determine who can care for you or help with daily tasks – it might be a good idea to start considering other alternatives early. 

    How is COVID-19 treated?

    There is currently no treatment for COVID-19. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Supportive care may be provided by your doctor or a hospital, such as fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration, medication to reduce fever and in more severe cases, supplemental oxygen.

     

  • Parents of school aged children

    In accordance with the Department’s regular Infectious Diseases Policy, unwell students or staff should not be attending school. Unwell students and staff should remain at home until symptoms resolve and seek medical assistance as required.

    Everyone can protect against infections by practising good hand and respiratory hygiene. Health promotion materials are available from Victoria Health to educate and promote healthy habits for staff, students and families:

    “Given the current information, we do not feel that we need to change specific treatment advice for any child with asthma and other respiratory conditions. The data available from around the world suggests very few children have been significantly affected by COVID-19, including those living with chronic lung conditions. Families should follow the government’s advice including school attendance, practising social distancing, good hand hygiene and limiting interaction with high risk groups such as elderly grandparents.”- Prof Adam Jaffe

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s the difference between self-isolation and social distancing?

    These words have sprung into everyone’s vocabulary in the last few months, but what’s the difference? Both are important measures to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and to slow down the spread of the virus. Social distancing is about maintaining spatial distance between yourself and other people to help reduce the chance of transmitting the virus. The Government currently recommends 1.5 metres distance between people, and to allow at least 4 square metres of space per person indoors. As the issue unfolds, these measures may change. Self-isolation means staying in your home at all times to reduce physical contact with anyone, unless absolutely necessary. Experts strongly advise anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or might have been exposed to self-isolate for 14 days. 

  • How should I define essential and non-essential activities?

    Think about the things that you really can’t go without – groceries, medicine and medical appointments. Some things might feel essential to you, even if they’re non-essential, such as seeing your grandkids. Remember, this is only a temporary situation. It’s important to consider all your interactions during this time and think about alternative ways you may be able to stay connected. Embrace technology and ask your family and friends to help you set up things like Facetime or other apps so you can feel connected. 

  • Should I use social distancing or self-isolation if I have a lung disease but am otherwise feeling well?  

    If you have a pre-existing lung condition, you’re at a heightened risk of serious illness if you contract a virus such as COVID-19. Social distancing and self-isolation are the most effective ways of preventing the spread. Lung Foundation Australia strongly supports the new social distancing restrictions announced by the Federal Government on 29 March 2020. Under the new restrictions people over 70, or over 60 living with a pre-existing condition, or indigenous people aged over 50 are to stay home wherever possible.  It’s important to remember that people who have COVID-19 don’t always display symptoms. 

    If you do have to go out for an essential reason: 

    • Practice social distancing vigilantly 
    • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often – if you can’t access soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser 
    • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible, particularly things like shopping trollies and door handles 
    • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. 

     

  • Can I still go to work and grocery shop if I’m practising social distancing? 

    Home delivery of medication and groceries are either available now or launching soon to support vulnerable Australians in staying home during this time. Visit the following links for the most up-to-date information on these services. 

    If these services are not yet available in your region, contact family and friends to see if they help by purchasing essential supplies on your behalf during this time. If you must go out, ensure you practice social distancing, avoid high-touch areas such as shopping trolleys and door handles, avoid touching your face, and was your hands thoroughly when you get home. 

  • Should I be going to work? 

     If you are living with a lung condition and are unable to work from home, speak with your employer about the measures that are being put in place to protect employees. Visit Safe Work Australia website for advice for workers, along with information for employers and preparing workplaces. 

  • How do I raise it with people if they’re not practicing social distancing around me?

    It’s important you put your health first and this might mean talking to your friends and family about what you need from them during this time. If people need to visit your home, ask them to wash their hands thoroughly on arriving, maintain physical distance from you and avoid touching anything unnecessarily.

    We’ve developed a poster that you can hang on your front door as a reminder to anyone who might be entering your home. Download now. 

  • Do you need to get tested if you are living with someone who is in self-isolation?

    Your doctor will tell you if you should be tested and they will arrange for the test to happen.

    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.

    For more information on testing criteria, view here.

  • Does my carer/family going out to purchase supplies on my behalf compromise my position? (ie could become infected within community)  

    If possible, ask a family member or friend who doesn’t live with you to purchase supplies on your behalf, and ask them to leave them outside your door to minimise your physical contact with that person. If a carer/family member who lives with you does have to go out to purchase supplies, ensure they are: 

    • Practicing social distancing vigilantly 
    • Washing hands with soap and water thoroughly and often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser 
    • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible 
    • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. 

    Only household members who are essential for caring for you should stay in the home. Consider: 

    • Staying in a different room from them, or be separated as much as possible 
    • Use a separate bathroom, if available 
    • Avoid shared or communal areas as much as possible. 

    Other people living in the home should consider staying elsewhere if possible. Surfaces in shared areas such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, toilets, faucets and sinks should be cleaned daily with household disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution – wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly afterwards. Clean and disinfect telephones and mobiles and keyboards – wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly afterwards.

  • When social distancing is the new norm and access to respiratory specialists is more problematic or restricted, how can I feel confident my lung disease is under control?
    • Try and stay as well as possible – eat well, exercise (i.e. a home-based exercise program), rest when you can, ensure you’re getting enough sleep, avoid going out where possible 
    • Schedule your consultations via the telephone or videoconference – all specialists are now offering this service 
    • Follow your current written action plan developed with your treating doctor to help you recognise when symptoms of your lung condition worsen and the steps to manage them. If your plan is out of date or you do not have one, call your GP or treating healthcare team and ask whether they can complete one with you over the telephone. 
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