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Everything you need to know about coronavirus

A coronavirus is a large family of viruses which can cause illness in animals or humans. The Australian Department of Health says it will most often cause respiratory infections.

<p>Older Australians is one of the highest risk groups for the coronavirus and should implement social distancing and good bodily hygiene as much as possible. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

Older Australians is one of the highest risk groups for the coronavirus and should implement social distancing and good bodily hygiene as much as possible. [Source: Shutterstock]

The severity of a coronavirus can range from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted between animals and people. Investigations into previous outbreaks found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. 

Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China in December 2019. According to the WHO, this strain of coronavirus has not been previously identified in humans.

Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, the virus was called 2019-nCoV by the WHO, and this name is still often used. 

COVID-19 is also referred to as the novel coronavirus, 2019 coronavirus or just coronavirus.

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The most common ways that COVID-19 spreads is through:

  • Close contact with an infectious person – people can be infectious before showing any symptoms

  • Contact with droplets from an infected person through coughs or sneezes

  • Touching objects or surfaces like doorknobs or tables that contain cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face

A person can carry and transmit COVID-19 without showing symptoms. 

Common symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 can resemble the common cold or flu. They are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people can be infected with COVID-19 and not develop symptoms or feel unwell. 

 The most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever 

  • Tiredness

  • Dy cough 

However, some patients may also experience: 

  • Aches and pains 

  • Nasal congestion or runny nose 

  • Sore throat 

  • Diarrhea

The WHO has advised that most people, “about 80 percent” recover from the disease without needing special treatment. However, they suggest that around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and can develop difficulty breathing. 

Who is at risk?

The WHO says that for most people in most locations, the risk of catching COVID-19 is still low. However, there are now more and more places around the world (cities or areas) where the disease is spreading. For people living in, or visiting, these areas, the risk of catching COVID-19 is higher. 

According to the Department of Health, the people most at risk of getting the virus are those who have:

  • Recently been in in a high-risk country or region (mainland China, Iran, Italy or Korea)

  • Been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19

Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, chronic illness, and asthma or other breathing difficulties are more likely to develop severe illnesses as a result of COVID-19.

Others at higher risk of infection and serious illness include: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness).

  • People in group residential settings, including those in aged care facilities and group homes. 

  • People in detention facilities, including people in prisons and immigration detention.

How it affects aged care and the elderly?

Currently, aged care facilities are on high alert because of the risk it poses to older residents.

The Federal Government recently imposed stronger restrictions on aged care facilities, including limitations on daily visits and have closed all group activities indefinitely. 

Additionally, the Government has confirmed that in a worst case scenario, they will allow aged care facilities to go into lockdown. Avoiding exposure to COVID-19 is the best action nursing homes can take. 

Older Australians are a higher risk group for coronavirus because of their current comorbidities. 

Just like in flu season, ongoing health conditions is the problem.

The COVID-19 can put an incredible strain on a weak body or immune system.

Since the strength of immune systems depends on age, an older person’s bodily defences may not be as strong as a person half their age.

Older people with a form of lung disease or heart disease, cancer, diabetes or history of transplants, can experience serious or severe issues, like deadly fevers or breathing problems.

If you suspect that you have developed coronavirus, seek medical attention immediately.

Seeking medical attention 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the Department of Health advises seeking medical attention. 

They have set up a coronavirus Health Information Line to provide information on COVID-19. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be contacted on 1800 020 080

If you need to seek medical help from a doctor or hospital, call ahead to book an appointment as there may be extra steps they need to take. 

Once you arrive for your appointment call reception to let them know you’re there and follow their advice about whether you can into the surgery. You may not be able to go inside to avoid potentially affecting other people.

What do you want to know about COVID-19? Leave a comment below so we can look into it for you.

Related links:

Prime Minister announces further restrictions to aged care
Coronavirus stimulus package boosts aged care
Potential lockdowns for aged care facilities at risk of coronavirus

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