Overview

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 outbreak, which originated in Hubei Province, China late in 2019, is named COVID-19.

Current status
Last updated: 6/04/20
There have been 5,687 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 34 deaths in Australia.

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has now been assessed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.  Based on this information and advice from the Department of Health, Lung Foundation Australia does not recommend people who are at a high risk of serious infection gathering together at meetings or participating in group activities at this time.  Further specific advice for people living with a lung condition, can found here. Lung Foundation Australia will continue to keep our community informed.

Please feel free to contact our Information and Support Centre on 1800 654 301.

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. From previous experience with other types of coronaviruses, the people most at risk of serious infection are: 

  • People with compromised immune systems, such as people with cancer 
  • People with diagnosed chronic medical conditions 
  • Elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 
  • Very young children and babies 

“It important to know that some people infected with the COVID-19 virus may not get sick at all, in fact they may not have any symptoms. About 70% of people who are infected with coronavirus appear to have a relatively mild illness, it’s an illness that doesn’t progress to pneumonia and resolves over a 5 to 10-day period.“ – Prof Christine Jenkins AM

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.  

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.

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 
  • 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 the health clinic or hospital before arrival and inform them of your travel history or that 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. 

There are no specific treatments for coronavirus. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, however most of the symptoms can be treated with supportive medical care. Speak to your healthcare team about what options may be available to you. 

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.

Resources:

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.

State based programs:

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