Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. COVID-19 is a new virus in the coronavirus family that can cause an infection in people, including a severe respiratory illness.
What are the symptoms?
Many people who contract COVID–19 will suffer only mild symptoms. However early indications are that the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions are more at risk of experiencing severe symptoms.
The most common symptoms reported include:
Breathing difficulties such as breathlessness
Fatigue or tiredness
These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.
We don’t yet know how long symptoms take to show after a person has been infected, but current World Health Organization assessments suggest that it is 2–10 days.
Who is at risk?
You are most at risk if you:
Have recently travelled or transited through Iran, mainland China or South Korea
Have recently had close contact with a confirmed case
Have recently travelled internationally
What should I do if I feel unwell?
If you are not in any of these risk categories and begin to feel unwell and develop a fever or shortness of breath, a cough or respiratory illness, schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
If you are in any of these risk categories and begin to feel unwell and develop a fever or shortness of breath, a cough or respiratory illness in the 14 days since arriving home from international travel, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Call ahead to your GP or emergency department and mention your overseas travel before you arrive at the doctor’s office so they can prepare appropriate infection control measures.
If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance and tell the operator your recent travel history.
People who are elderly or have pre-existing medical conditions
COVID-19 spreads through close contact with an infected person; mostly face-to-face or within a household. It cannot jump across a room or be carried for long distances in the air so we should all go about our lives as normal.
Close contact means greater than 15 minutes face-to-face or the sharing of a closed space for more than two hours with a confirmed case. A close contact could include any person meeting any of the following criteria:
living in the same household or household-like setting (for example, a boarding school or hostel)
direct contact with the body fluids or laboratory specimens of a confirmed case
a person who spent two hours or longer in the same room
face-to-face contact for more than 15 minutes with the case in any other setting not listed above.
Screening clinics have been established at five Melbourne hospitals. If you have any of the symptoms above and travelled overseas recently or been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus, you can now visit the clinic closest to you for a medical examination.
Please call ahead before attending the emergency department so that staff can prepare for your arrival. Mention any symptoms, recent travel details, who you have contacted, or any other relevant information.