There’s no doubt that the information about the coronavirus is inescapable. And, while we are technically adding to the news, we’re doing our best to provide helpful and factual information about COVID-19 as well as thoughtful content to take your mind off it.
But, there is a certain amount of information that you need to know for your own safety and for the safety of others. Below, we’ve compiled a bunch of answers to common questions regarding the virus.
And, while we’re doing our best to keep up to date with everything coronavirus related, the advice changes so quickly that we also advise to continually check back on updates from the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation.
How does COVID-19 spread?
While you’ve probably read about this a million times, here’s a little refresher just in case. The Australian Government Department of Health has listed the following ways COVID-19 can be transmitted:
- Having close contact with an infectious person (including in the 24 hours before they started showing symptoms)
- Contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- Touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common symptoms include fever, tiredness and dry cough.
“Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
“Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.”
How do you get tested for COVID-19?
According to the Department of Health, your doctor will decide if you meet the following criteria before testing you for COVID-19:
- You have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever
- You have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever
- You have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause
- You are a healthcare worker who works directly with patients and you have a respiratory illness and a fever
There is currently a global shortage of test kits that are needed to diagnose COVID-19, so this is why Australia is doing targeted testing instead of widespread testing.
If you do undergo testing, a medical professional will insert two long cotton tips into each nostril and swab inside the top of your nose. A third cotton tip will be used to swab the back of your throat as well. It’s not an overly pleasant experience but it also doesn’t take very long. Otherwise, testing can also be undertaken on blood samples or on mucus coughed up from your lungs.
What to do after being tested?
The Department of Health has advised that it could take a few days for test results to come back, so you’ll need to self-quarantine during this time. If you have serious symptoms you’ll be kept in hospital and isolated from other patients to prevent the virus spreading.
Otherwise, if you appear well enough to go home while you wait for your test results, you should adhere to the following things:
- Self-quarantine at home and do not attend work or school
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow
- Avoid cooking for or caring for other members of your household
- Wear the mask your doctor gives you if you cannot avoid close contact with other people
For more information on COVID-19, you can contact the Coronavirus Health Information line on 1800 020 080. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to Queensland Health, if the test comes back positive, you’ll receive a call from a public health unit which will advise you what to do next.
“In many cases, you will need to stay at home in self-quarantine until you recover. If your condition becomes worse, you may be admitted to hospital in a quarantined area. If the result is negative, you will be notified by the doctor who requested the testing.”
How to properly self-isolate
At the moment, you’ll be asked to self-isolate if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or if you’ve been in contact with someone who is confirmed to be infected. People returning to Australia from overseas are also required to self-quarantine for 14 days after coming home.
If you are required to self-isolate, the Department of Health insists you do the following:
- Do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
- Ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
- Do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
During self-isolation, the Government had advised that it is safe to go into your garden or courtyard if you live in a private house.
“If you live in an apartment, it is also safe for you to go outside into the garden but you should wear a mask to minimise risk to others. You should move quickly through any common areas and wear a mask. It is safe to go onto your balcony if you have one.”
Are people you live with required to self-quarantine?
In short, yes. Not everyone has enough space in their home to be able to completely isolate themselves from their family members or flatmates.
The Department of Health advises that only household members who are essential for caring for you should stay in the home. Elderly people or those with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions should stay away or try to find elsewhere to stay.
“If you are sharing the home with others, you should stay in a different room from them, or be separated as much as possible. You should use a separate bathroom, if available. Avoid shared or communal areas and wear a surgical mask when moving through these areas. Surfaces in shared areas such as door handles, taps and benches should be cleaned daily with household disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution.”
And, if you are confirmed to have COVID-19, the people you live with (and other close contacts you see on a regular basis) will also need to undergo a period of self-isolation.
Is there a way to treat COVID-19?
Unfortunately, there isn’t any treatment available for coronavirus. But, medical care can treat many of the symptoms.
According to SBS, the WHO is now advising those who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms to avoid taking ibuprofen. This recommendation came after French officials flagged research that showed anti-inflammatory drugs worsen the effect of COVID-19.
While the WHO is still looking into this claim, so the advice is to use paracetamol instead. But, if ibuprofen had already been “prescribed by the healthcare professionals, then, of course, that’s up to them.”
Antibiotics don’t work on viruses so are redundant in this context.
How long does COVID-19 last?
NSW Health advises that the length of the infection varies from person to person.
“Mild symptoms in an otherwise healthy individual may resolve over just a few days. Similar to influenza, for an individual with other ongoing health issues, such as a respiratory condition, recovery may take weeks and in severe cases could be potentially fatal.”
How to prevent the spread of COVID-19
One more important reminder is how to slow the spread of coronavirus and ultimately, avoid getting it yourself. The WHO recommends the following steps:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands
- Practice social distancing and maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and others
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Stay safe and practice good hygiene, friends!
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.