Originally appeared on Australian Community Media, March, 2020
It’s been less than three months since the Coronavirus outbreak made the news and the impact of what has now been named COVID-19 continues to grow and change every day.
You can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on your radio or TV without hearing a COVID-19 story or update.
And the panic that has ensued has seen extraordinary reactions like emptying supermarket shelves of toilet paper and hand sanitizer and disaster prepping of the worst kind.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from this epidemic and quell the fear that pervades every conversation around it?
The advice from medical authorities is simple: take precautions and don’t panic.
Dr Amandeep Hansra, a clinical consultant with HealthShare and a practicing GP, says the most important thing to do is stay calm and listen to advice from health authorities.
“Panic can sometimes cause more harm than good and most people who develop symptoms from the COVID-19 virus will only experience a mild flu like illness,” Dr Hansra said.
“Like many other viruses, COVID-19 can be spread from person to person and therefore the cases in Australia will increase over the next few months.”
Dr Hansra said the virus was spread through close contact with an infected person; contact with droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough; or touching surfaces or objects that have cough or sneeze droplets on them and then touching your mouth or face.
The main symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath and other flu like symptoms.
The way to stop the spread is for anyone who has flu-like symptoms to stay home until they have recovered.
“Everyone should wash their hands often with soap and water, and everyone should use a tissue and cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze,” Dr Hansra said.
“If you have a confirmed diagnosis, it is important to isolate yourself to prevent the spread of the disease.”
Those most at risk are people who have travelled to mainland China, Iran, Italy or South Korea and those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Dr Hansra said it was important to remember that Australia has one of the best health systems in the world and everything possible was being done to contain the outbreak and plan for the extra stress it may cause.
You can contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line 24 hours a day on 1800 020 080. If you develop fever or respiratory symptoms you should contact your GP or you can call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222. To find out more go to www.healthshare.com.au.