Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 first originated in humans after being transmitted from animals and can now be transmitted from human-to-human via droplets.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is spread by:
- droplets being transmitted directly from an infected person to the mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, nose) of an uninfected person; or
- droplets being transmitted from the respiratory system of an infected person onto an external surface and subsequently picked up by an uninfected person and transferred to their mucous membranes (usually when they touch their face).
- Airborne transmission – growing evidence has highlighted that COB infective microdroplets are small enough to remain suspended in the air and expose individuals at distances beyond 2 m from an infected person.
The virus can survive on external surfaces for approximately 48 hours at room temperature. The incubation period (the time between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms) is estimated at between 2 to 14 days.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to the symptoms people experience with a common cold. The most common symptoms are:
Additional symptoms may include:
- Muscle aches;
- Runny or stuffy nose;
- Sore throat;
- Shortness of breath; and
- In some cases, breathing difficulties.
Approximately 80% of people with COVID-19 will only develop a mild infection. However, about 14% of people with COVID-19 will require hospitalisation, and 6-8% will require intensive care.
To check your symptoms visit the Healthdirect online symptom checker.
How do I protect myself and others?
- Hand and general hygiene
Practising good hand and general hygiene is one of the most effective methods of slowing the spread of COVID-19. This includes washing hands frequently before and after eating; after going to the bathroom; and after returning home. Appropriate handwashing should take at least 20 seconds and involve washing all surfaces on the hands. Commonly missed areas include fingertips, thumbs, in between fingers, and the back of hands. Coughs and sneezes should be covered with a tissue or elbow, and tissues disposed of immediately. Hands should be washed with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser after blowing the nose or touching the face.
- Avoid touching your face
Avoiding touching your face is an important way to slow the spread of COVID-19. The infection can be spread when you pick up virus-containing droplets from an external surface with your hands, and then transfer them onto your mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth).
- Social distancing
Social distancing is a proven method of stopping or slowing the spread of COVID-19 and involves reducing contact between people in both public and private spaces. Social distancing has proven a simple, powerful and effective tactic to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Social distancing includes cancelling public events and large gatherings, reducing visits to public spaces like shopping centres and working from home. The idea is to only leave home for essentials – food and other provisions, medicine or health care and exercise. When people do interact in public and private spaces, maintaining physical distance between each other can also make it harder for the virus to spread. Current advice from the Australian Government recommends maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 metres where possible. Avoiding handshakes or kissing as a form of greeting others is another important way to reduce physical contact.
- Physical isolation
Physical isolation or ‘self-isolation’ is when you remain in your home or accommodation and avoid contact with other people. This is very important if you are a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. Most people who need to self-isolate will probably be advised to do so for 14 days. It is important that you follow the advice of health authorities and seek medical attention if you start to experience sever symptoms.
What should I do if I’m vulnerable?
Several groups of Australians are at a higher risk than the general population of being infected with COVID-19, and a higher risk than the general population of developing severe symptoms once infected. The following people should take extra precautions against becoming infected, including staying at home if possible:
- Older Australians: starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease, and this risk increases with age. The highest risk of serious illness and death is in people older than 80.
- People with compromised immune systems and/or existing chronic health conditions: these existing conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and autoimmune conditions, can make it harder for people’s immune systems to fight the virus.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: are at a higher risk because of the higher rate of chronic conditions in these populations.
- People living in group residential settings: such as detention facilities and aged care facilities, where infections can spread quickly.
Other things to remember
- It’s OK to be feeling concerned, anxious or distressed about COVID-19. These are normal responses to an unprecedented and rapidly changing situation. Acknowledge and monitor your feelings and try to manage your mental health and psychosocial wellbeing during this time. If you need support, you can contact services like Beyondblue and Lifeline.
- Find a healthy balance of media coverage. Consuming a constant stream of media about COVID-19 can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it is important to stay informed, it is also important to have periods of time away from media that can be upsetting. Make sure the information you’re accessing is accurate and from credible sources. Here are some helpful links: Australian Government COVID-19 Health Alert, HealthDirect Coronavirus COVID-19 and World Health Organisation Coronavirus.
- Sleep, physical activity and diet are all really important – now more than ever. Make sure you look after your mind and body.
- Prioritise things that bring you joy. When you’re not at work, take the time to do some gardening, read a book, cook some new recipes, build something, play games with your kids/partner/housemates or just listen to music.
- Avoid unhealthy coping strategies such as using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical wellbeing.
- Maintain a routine where possible.
We have provided some more helpful links below:
Healthy WA – Health Information for Western Australians
Tobacco use and COVID-19
Healthdirect online symptom checker