For those of you who may be concerned or simply unaware, given how rapidly this situation is evolving and updates are changing.
COVID-19 is now spreading in Australia, and based on predictions from the patterns in other countries, there is a 3-4 week window during which we can prepare ourselves, before case numbers jump.
- COVID-19 is spread via droplets and aerosol, from person to person or via contaminated surfaces
- Main symptoms: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue (mild in the 1st week, worse in the 2nd week)
- It has a 10x higher case fatality rate than the flu (influenza), which means it is not "just the flu"
- Those who will be hit hardest are those who are aged >60/70 years, those who are immunosuppressed, and those who have chronic comorbidities (such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension and cancer)
- Children are least likely to get sick from it BUT can carry it
- There is currently no vaccine or treatment
Given it has hit Australia, we want to try and reduce the spread to ease the toll. In other words, we want to try and contain it, and this means that, contrary to politicians' advice, we, as doctors, would rather you stay home and SELF-QUARANTINE rather than go to clinics and wait in waiting rooms - unless you're really unwell with breathing difficulties, etc.
So, for now, DO:
- Reduce your exposure to public outings, big social gatherings and try to work from home if you can
- Wash hands before and after touching any surfaces
- If you have to cough or sneeze, do it into your elbow
- Plan ahead and consider what you would need to do if you had to self-isolate at home for 2 weeks (prepare a supply of essential medications, non-perishable food and hygiene products, but do not stockpile)
- Keep toilet seat lid closed when flushing
- Reduce handshakes in social gatherings, and
- STAY HOME IF YOU ARE UNWELL and phone your GP, or call the hotline (Australian Health Department: 1800 020 080) for further instructions
If you're unwell with cold/respiratory/flu-like symptoms, DON'T:
- Turn up to a GP clinic unannounced (GPs have not been equipped with enough protective resources to deal with a COVID-19 influx, and being exposed to you will mean that staff and those in the waiting room then have to be quarantined for 2 weeks, and could become unwell also)
- Call or visit the Emergency Department, or call 000, unless it is an emergency (ie. chest pain, breathing difficulties, etc)
- Go to public places (supermarket, events, work, use public transport, etc)
- Have unnecessary contact with older adults, those who are frail, immunosuppressed or who have chronic health problems
- Have visitors to your home
*Most people who catch COVID-19 will endure a mild illness for 1-2 weeks, and won't need hospital treatment. Please leave these limited resources to those who need them.
Currently the countries who have been more successful at dealing with COVID-19 are those who have enforced home isolation and quarantining for 14 days. There is NO NEED to go and get a swab done unless you have been told that you need to. If you think you are unwell with COVID-19 (contact with a known source, ANY recent international travel, or high-risk symptoms as listed above), stay at home and try to isolate yourself for 14 days! Please do not spread it further - we need to contain it.
PLEASE check on those who are doing it tough or might be getting lonely staying at home - use social media, use your phones, use the internet to stay in touch. Above all, please be alert, not alarmed; please be vigilant about hygiene, be wise about your movements, and be selfless in protecting others.
State-based health dept numbers:
NSW: 1300 066 055
VIC: 1800 675 398
QLD: 13 432 584 / 13HEALTH
ACT: 02 5124 9213 (bus) / 02 9962 4155 (AH)
NT: 08 8922 8044
TAS: 1800 671 738
SA: 1300 232 272
WA: 08 9222 4222
ETA: Advice is changing almost daily, so please do check for website updates: