coronavirus latest what you need to know
coronavirus latest what you need to know

Coronavirus: What you must know about the deadly virus

Globally 25,000 people now have the deadly coronavirus and as panic spreads Chinese populated shopping centres are being deserted and hospitals are choked with anxious people demanding tests.

This is even though it is extremely unlikely Australians will catch the virus unless they have been to China or in contact with someone else who has.

Hundreds of Australians have been tested for the virus but as of today there have been only 14 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia 4 in NSW, 4 in Victoria, 4 in Queensland and 2 in South Australia.

All of the cases in Australia have come from Wuhan except one in NSW who had contact in China with a confirmed case in Wuhan.

Three of these people have recovered from the virus and the others are in a stable condition, there have been no deaths in Australia.

Australians are right to take the virus seriously.

The new coronavirus from China has a death rate of around two per cent, this makes it four times more deadly than influenza.

One in four people will have severe symptoms.

Plus there is a vaccine to protect against the flu but no vaccine for the coronavirus.

However, the death rate for coronavirus far less than for SARS which killed one on ten people who contracted it or MERS which killed one in three people.

Australian University Infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon warns the big problem is that coronavirus is far more infectious so more people will get it.

Only 8000 people caught SARS, around 25,000 now have coronavirus.

"A death rate of one in 1,000 is good but not if it spreads to one million people because then you've got 1,000 deaths," he said.

To date Australia has done a very good job containing the infection by isolating those who have the virus and tracing the people they came into contact with and monitoring them.

From February 1 travel restrictions have prevented foreign nationals entering Australia if they have been in China.



The AUSMAT team of 24 personnel on way to Christmas Islandto deal with coronavirus evacuees. Picture: Supplied
The AUSMAT team of 24 personnel on way to Christmas Islandto deal with coronavirus evacuees. Picture: Supplied


Face masks and hand sanitisers are good ways of protecting yourself against the virus but these are selling out fast as people begin to panic.

It is crucial there are enough face masks and protective equipment for medical staff on the front line because they are much more likely to be at risk than people in the general community.

The Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has said the general public do not need to wear masks as they go about their everyday business.




The Government has a massive stockpile of surgical masks and has already released around one million to help GPs and medical staff cope.

Washing hands regularly with alcohol wipe is a good way to reduce your risk of infection as it avoiding contact with door knobs and other surfaces touched by others.

Use a tissue and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze


The coronavirus is most likely spread from person to person through:

•direct close contact with a person while they are infectious

•contact with droplets when a person with a confirmed infection coughs or sneezes

•touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that has droplets from a cough or sneeze by an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face

Professor Collignon says standing a metre away from other people is also likely to help protect you from getting infected.


Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing.

A study of the first 41 patients in China found only one in four people produced sputum, less than one in ten had a headache and one person had diarrhoea.

People who are worried they have an infection are advised to ring ahead to their GP and isolate themselves from others.


A electron microscope image of a coronavirus. Picture: Reuters
A electron microscope image of a coronavirus. Picture: Reuters


The NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant also dispelled myths about the coronavirus circulating in the community.

"There have been multiple incorrect and alarmist social media posts regarding the spread and severity of the disease, prompting NSW Health to remind all residents to fact check," she said.

"I ask the public to be aware of the facts about the novel coronavirus and take a moment to investigate unverified claims before they share them with others," Dr Chant said.

NSW Health was particularly keen to dispel five common myths about the novel coronavirus.

1. You should avoid Chinatown/shopping centres/suburbs with high Chinese/Australian populations - FALSE. While four cases have been diagnosed in NSW to date, patients have been isolated until no longer infectious and there is no evidence that community transmission is occurring in NSW.

2. You can get the novel coronavirus from an imported package of food - FALSE. The novel coronavirus does not appear to last very long on surfaces. Therefore imported products do not pose a risk of transmission of this virus.

3. Garlic and sesame oil will stop me from contracting novel coronavirus - FALSE. The best way to protect yourself is the same as you would against any respiratory infection. Practice good hygiene by: a. covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow; b. making sure to clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub; and c. avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

4. The virus has mutated into a more lethal strain - FALSE. This was debunked by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

5. Can I catch novel coronavirus from my pet? - FALSE. While the 2019-nCoV may have come from animals, domestic pets do not pose a risk of transmission in Australia


There is a National Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080, providing public health information.

People seeking medical information should call registered nurses on healthdirect - 1800 022 222.