With face masks and hand sanitisers becoming a form of currency, Corona beer sales falling and stupidity taking a sharp rise as people stockpile toilet paper, it’s become more important than ever to understand what the Coronavirus actually is.
The coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness.
A virus, in simple terms, is an infectious agent that replicates inside living cells of organisms including humans, animals, plants and even microorganisms such as bacteria. The flu is also caused by a virus.
Coronaviruses are actually a group of viruses that cause disease in mammals and birds.
In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that range from mild cough and the common cold, right through to pneumonia and lethal infections such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and COVID-19. Some people are able to recover easily, while many young, elderly and immunocompromised people may experience more severe symptoms.
COVID-19 has been shown to spread from person to person through the following:
- close contact with an infected person
- contact with droplets (from coughing or sneezing) from an infected person
- touching objects and surfaces that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, then touching your face and mouth.
The good news is that thorough hygiene can prevent infection.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include the following and can start between 2 and 14 days from exposure:
- flu-like symptoms (e.g. coughing, sore throat, fatigue)
- shortness of breath
The Statistics So Far
COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan City in China in December 2019.
Globally, there have been more than 113 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than
3 900 reported deaths. The majority of these cases have been reported from mainland China. For perspective, 32 000 of these cases (including 850 deaths) have been reported from 108 countries external to China. In particular, Italy and Iran are currently COVID-19 hotspots.
COVID-19 case fatality rate is approximately 3.9%. However, outside of mainland China this drops to about 2.4%.
According to the Department of Health as of 10 March 2020, there are 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia and 3 deaths in Australia. The Australian Government is providing a current count of the known infected in the country. At the time of this article, the numbers are as follows:
- 54 in New South Wales
- 12 in Queensland
- 6 in South Australia
- 2 in Tasmania
- 12 in Victoria
- 4 in Western Australia
- 10 associated with the Diamond Princess cruise ship
Who is at risk?
In Australia, the people at most risk of getting the virus are those who have recently travelled to mainland China and Iran or have been in close contact with individuals who test positive for coronavirus.
What YOU can do to protect yourself and others around you
Surgical face masks are usually helpful in preventing infected people who have the disease from spreading it to others. If you are healthy, you don’t need to wear a mask.
Good hygiene practise will protect against transmission of infections. This includes:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water
- Using a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough/sneeze
- Avoiding close contact with others (e.g. touching, kissing)
Self-isolation of 14 days is recommended for those who have returned from certain countries including Iran, China or South Korea—even if you don’t feel unwell. Self-isolation involves not going to public places (work, school, shopping centres, university, you get the drift) and not letting visitors into your home if possible.
If you have returned from overseas travel in the last 14 days, are a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 individual or believe you have been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, please do not rock up to your GP clinic or hospital emergency room; you could potentially be putting other already sick people at risk. Instead, call ahead and the health care professionals will provide you with further instructions. There are now also COVID-19 specialty clinics equipped with staff and resources that are suitable to minimise the impact and spread of COVID-19. The clinics run from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm daily. In WA, they are located at:
Royal Perth Hospital – Ground Floor, Ainslie House, 48 Murray Street, Perth
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital – C Block, Hospital Avenue, Nedlands
Fiona Stanley Hospital – Bedbrook Row, north-eastern end of hospital, Murdoch