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

What is coronavirus and COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can make humans and animals sick. Some coronaviruses can cause illness similar to the common cold and others can cause more serious diseases, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). 

This new coronavirus disease, which originated in Hubei Province in China late in 2019, is named COVID-19 and it has been assessed as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.  

Current status in Australia
Last updated: 29/05/20
There have been 7,150confirmed cases of COVID-19, including  103 deaths in Australia. 

COVID-19 Expert Working Group
We’ve formed an COVID-19 Expert Working Group with some of the leading respiratory experts in the country. This group will meet regularly to support our team in providing you with the most up-to-date information, support and guidance, and to answer your most asked questions. Sign up for our email newsletters on COVID-19.

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. 

Who is at risk?

Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily, and others may become very ill, very quickly. People who are, or are more likely to be, at higher risk of serious illness if they get the virus are: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions 
  • People 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions 
  • People 70 years and older 
  • People with compromised immune systems. 

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.  

Who should wear a facemask?

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 andif 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.

Tips for reducing the spread in your home

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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

The virus poses particular risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who already experience a significant burden of chronic disease including respiratory conditions.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has begun reaching out to community health services to implement possible emergency response plans and providing them with the latest available information.

The Federal Government is engaging with Aboriginal leaders and will be distributing national guidelines over how to respond to COVID-19 if it appears in vulnerable remote communities. Steps are already being taken to ensure communities are well prepared and are engaged in decision-making over quarantine measures and accessing their local health services.


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


Quit smoking

Now is the time to quit smoking. While there isn’t enough evidence to be certain that people who smoke are more likely to get COVID-19, we know that they are at a higher risk of getting lung and chest infections in general. Quitting smoking is an important step to take to protect yourself from COVID-19. For more information about the other benefits of smoking cessation and advice, visit the Quitting Smoking page.

Call Quitline today to start planning your quit journey, 13 78 48.

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