Summary

  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new virus that can cause respiratory illness including pneumonia.
  • The virus is spread from person-to-person through close contact.
  • Ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus is to wash your hands well and try not to touch your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Before you travel find out if the latest coronavirus advice for the country you're visiting.

What is coronavirus disease?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus that can cause an infection in people, including a severe respiratory illness.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Many people who contract coronavirus (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:

  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulties such as breathlessness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue or tiredness

How does coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

Coronavirus 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.

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.

How is coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosed and treated?

There are tests to diagnose coronavirus. The Department of Health and Human Services has advice on when and where to get those tests done.

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance.

There is no specific treatment for disease caused by COVID-19. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and so any treatment will be based on your clinical condition. 

How to reduce your risk of coronavirus?

The ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus are to:

  • Wash hands often with soap and running water, for at least 20 seconds. Dry with paper towel or hand dryer.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow. 
  • Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick. If you take medication ensure you have adequate supplies. 
  • Phone your doctor (GP) first if you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do.
  • Continue healthy habits: exercise, drink water, get plenty of sleep, and now is the time to quit smoking. Call the Quitline 137 848.
  • Don't wear a face mask if you are well.
  • Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Get the flu shot (available April).
  • Avoid shaking hands.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and self-isolation

The Australian Government has information on what to do if you’ve been asked to self-isolate at home or elsewhere.

Coronavirus – advice for travellers 

If you’re planning any overseas travel, the Smartraveller website has the latest coronavirus advice for all countries. 

The Australian Government’s Department of Health and the Victorian Government’s Department of Health and Human Services have advice on what to do if you’ve recently returned from an at-risk country.  

Where can I find out more information?

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Department of Health and Human Services - RHP&R - Office of the Chief Health Officer

Last updated: March 2020

Content on this website is provided for information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not in any way endorse or support such therapy, service, product or treatment and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. The information and materials contained on this website are not intended to constitute a comprehensive guide concerning all aspects of the therapy, product or treatment described on the website. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions and to ascertain whether the particular therapy, service, product or treatment described on the website is suitable in their circumstances. The State of Victoria and the Department of Health & Human Services shall not bear any liability for reliance by any user on the materials contained on this website.