Coronavirus disease - what you need to know

Will coronavirus become a global pandemic?

Update 4 March 2020:

The number of Australians infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached 41.

COVID-19 continues to spread across Queensland with a 26-year-old man from Logan becoming the latest diagnosed and Queensland’s 11th sufferer of the disease.

The man recently returned from Iran and is in isolation at the Princess Alexandra hospital. 

Queensland Health is working to determine details of when he flew back to Queensland and who he may have been in contact with. 

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom said the organisation was starting to “understand” COVID-19 and the “disease it causes.”

“This virus is not SARS, it’s not MERS, and it’s not influenza,” Dr Adhanom said. 

“It is a unique virus with unique characteristics.

“Both COVID-19 and influenza cause respiratory disease and spread the same way, via small droplets of fluid from the nose and mouth of someone who is sick.

“But because of their differences we can’t treat COVID-19 exactly the same way we treat flu.”

Dr Adhanom said COVID-19 had caused more severe disease than seasonal influenza.

“While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity,” he said. 

“That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease.

“Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.”

“To summarise, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained – which is why we must do everything we can to contain it.”

Researchers at the University of Queensland believe they are only months away from developing a vaccine to combat COVID-19. READ MORE HERE.

COVID-19 across the world 

  • 93,123 confirmed cases globally
  • 80,267 confirmed cases in China
  • 3198 confirmed deaths globally

COVID-19 in Australia

  • One confirmed death
  • 41 confirmed cases across Australia
  • 11 confirmed cases in Queensland
  • 15 confirmed cases in New South Wales
  • Nine confirmed cases in Victoria 
  • Three confirmed cases in South Australia
  • Two confirmed cases in Western Australia
  • One confirmed case in Tasmania 

Update 3 March 2020:

The number of Australians infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) has jumped to 34 after a Chinese university student living in Queensland contracted the disease.

The 20-year-old man is the 10th Queenslander to be diagnosed with COVID-19. 

It is understood the University of Queensland student self-quarantined himself for two weeks in Dubai before flying to Brisbane on 23 February. 

The man is now in a stable condition in isolation at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said authorities were looking into where the man may have contracted the disease.

“The male has recently returned to Brisbane and we are working closely with relevant authorities to undertake contact tracing,” Dr Young said.

“The male lived with one other housemate in Toowong. We are in contact with the male’s housemate, who is undergoing assessment.

“Our contact tracing methods are tried and trusted, and we will take every opportunity to raise awareness of this case in the community if there has been any community exposure.”

COVID-19 across the world 

  • 90,912 confirmed cases globally
  • 3117 confirmed deaths globally
  • 75 countries have confirmed cases

COVID-19 in Australia

  • One confirmed death
  • 34 confirmed cases across Australia
  • 10 confirmed cases in Queensland

Update 2 March 2020:

Australia has reported the first case of person-to-person transmission after a male doctor contracted the disease when treating a female patient who arrived on a flight from Iran last week.

The total amount of COVID-19 cases in Australia has now reached 30 (as of 2 March), with the last four cases of the virus originating from people who entered the country from Iran.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland had set aside $25 million worth of protective equipment and tripled emergency department capacity of hospitals to prepare for more cases of COVID-19.

“One of the significant advantages to Queensland is we’re a dispersed state, we don’t have big collections of people," she said.

“We may well see outbreaks in one part of the state, and others would be fine.”

COVID-19 across the world 

  • 89,068 confirmed cases globally
  • 80,068 confirmed cases in China
  • 2912 confirmed deaths in China
  • 9042 confirmed cases in countries outside of China
  • 127 confirmed deaths in countries outside of China

Earlier:

With the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) having spread throughout populations across the world, causing nearly 3000 deaths (2990 as of 2 March) including the first in Australia, there is growing fear the outbreak will be declared a global pandemic.

Despite the concern, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated the virus has not reached the level of a pandemic but has declared it a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ – the WHO’s highest level of alarm.

The Australian Government expects COVID-19 to soon become a global pandemic and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has implemented a disease management plan

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, in his weekly address on the COVID-19 mission briefing on 26 February, said the world should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts.

“Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralysing systems,” Dr Adhanom said.

“We are not just fighting to contain a virus and save lives. We are also in a fight to contain the social and economic damage a global pandemic could do.”

Dr Adhanom said while COVID-19 had not reached a pandemic level, the WHO could not rule out the possibility and countries should be prepared.

“All countries, whether they have cases or not, must prepare for a potential pandemic,” Dr Adhanom said.

“Every country needs to be ready to detect cases early, to isolate patients, trace contacts, provide quality clinical care, prevent hospital outbreaks, and prevent community transmission.

“There are three priorities. First, all countries must prioritise protecting health workers.

“Second, we must engage communities to protect people who are most at risk of severe disease, particularly the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

“And third, we must protect countries that are the most vulnerable, by doing our utmost to contain epidemics in countries with the capacity to do it.”

Mr Morrison said despite the WHO not declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, Australia must get “well ahead”.

“We’re effectively operating now on the basis that there is one, a pandemic,” Mr Morrison said. 

“In the last 24 hours ... the data regarding the rate of transmission of the virus outside of China is fundamentally changing the way we need to now look at how this issue is being managed here in Australia.

“We believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us and as a result, as a government, we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic.”

Mr Morrison said the emergency plan should not stop Australians from going about their daily business. 

“There is no need for us to be moving to having mass gatherings of people stop,” he said.

“You can still go to the football and the cricket and play with your friends down the street.

“You can go to the concert and you can go out for a Chinese meal.

“You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly.

“But to stay ahead of it we need to now elevate our response to the next phase.”

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said preparations were underway to combat a pandemic. 

"At this stage while we're in containment, we're in another role and that's preparation for a much more significant event," Mr Hunt said.

"What this does is it now moves to a full preparation phase for all of the supply chains, the medicines, we're working on the national inventories, the national medical stockpile.

WHAT DOES CORONAVIRUS MEAN FOR AUSSIE TRAVELLERS?

TRAVELLING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

CORONAVIRUS CATCH FOR TRAVELLERS

As of 2 March, China had reported 79,826 cases including 2870 deaths. Outside of China, there are now 7682 cases in 60 countries and 120 deaths.

In Queensland, nine cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed – five cases originated from a tour group travelling from Wuhan, China and three cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship group who were evacuated from Darwin for treatment in Queensland Hospitals.

The ninth and most recent case was confirmed on 29 February and was a 63-year-old woman who returned to Queensland from Iran. There are concerns up to 40 customers may have been in contact with the woman who worked at a hair and beauty salon on the Gold Coast. 

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jannette Young said there was an “incredibly low risk” the woman had spread the virus. 

“She came back from Iran, she was perfectly well on the flight back into Australia and up to the Gold Coast, and then a couple of days later she developed some symptoms,” Dr Young said. 

“As soon as she had her first symptom, and she is a highly intelligent, very sensitive lady, she spoke to her manager and she went home and she went to Gold Coast University hospital to get tested.

“Queensland Health has very rigorous contact-tracing procedures in place and we do this very well dozens of times a year for measles, a disease significantly more infectious than COVID-19.”

Across Australia, 29 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, one man has died and 15 have recovered from the disease.

Perth local, James Kwan, 78, was the first Australian to die from the disease after he was infected while onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. 

Mr Kwan died in Perth’s Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital on 29 February after he was evacuated from Japan. His wife, who was also diagnosed with COVID-19 remains in a stable condition at the same hospital. 

COVID-19 in Australia:

  • 29 confirmed cases
  • Nine in Queensland 
  • Nine in Victoria
  • Six in New South Wales
  • Three in South Australia
  • Two in Western Australia 
  • One death

* Australian Department of Health Figures as of 2 March.

Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said as there were no human-to-human transmissions of COVID-19 in Australia, people did not need to adjust their day-to-day lives.

“There is no reason to change anything you do, wear masks, or behave in a way that is different from normal,” Prof. Murphy said. 

He said if the WHO were to declare a pandemic it would not change how Australia handled the outbreak.

“It's just a label,” Prof. Murphy said.

“We are already preparing for the eventuality that we have further outbreaks in Australia should they happen.

“So, declaring a pandemic doesn’t change what we do.”

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COVID-19 across the world 

  • 87,508 confirmed cases globally
  • 78,826 confirmed cases in China
  • 2870 confirmed deaths in China
  • 7682 confirmed cases in countries outside of China
  • 120 confirmed deaths in countries outside of China

* WHO figures as of 2 March

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that are known to cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of the viruses that has not been previously identified in humans.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever
  • A cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

How can I protect myself?

  • Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid contact with anyone who has symptoms such as fever, a cough, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath
  • Stay home if you are unwell

Do I need to wear a facemask?

No. Queensland Health advises only people who have returned from mainland China and are unwell and have access to a face mask should use one. For anyone else, a face mask is not necessary.

What should I do if I think I have novel coronavirus?

If you have travelled to China in the past 14 days and are unwell, see a doctor immediately. Before your appointment, call ahead and advise of your symptoms so necessary precautions can be undertaken.

Should public events and large gatherings be cancelled?

Queensland Health advises that all events can go ahead as usual and there is no need to take additional precautions to regular practice.

Source: World Health Organisation, Queensland Health and Australia's Department of Health.