How is coronavirus spread?
Coronavirus is spread through our oral, nasal and airway secretions/fluids. Put simply, anything from the mouth or nose is a likely source of spread. Close contact is thus generally needed for spread (transmission) to occur. Coughing, sneezing or live virus on our hands/food/objects appear to be the primary modes of spread – when live virus from these sources enters our body through the mouth, nose or eyes then infection can occur. Droplets introduced to our body through someone’s cough or sneeze, or if we touch a contaminated surface and then rub our eyes, nose or mouth, look to be the biggest factors in spread so far.
This is why measures to limit spread of droplets when coughing or sneezing and basic hand hygiene are so important to protecting others and ourselves. Whilst it appears that initial spread from animals to humans occurred, this is not a major source of transmission or one to currently worry about here on our shores. There’s some evidence that transmission might be able to occur through faecal matter, but this is less clear and the chances appear far less likely.
What are some of the things you can do to help prevent developing COVID-19?
Staying up to date with the information and advice from reputable and evidence based sources is key – this has the added advantage of being myth and panic free. Stay on top of updates from places like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the national health department and your local/state health service guidelines. A number of travel cautions, screening requirements and restrictions are now in place for areas of high spread, and to protect ourselves and others it’s key we adhere to these.
Basic hygiene measures are your biggest and safest bet at the moment to limit your risk of infection.
1. Wash your hands properly
Hand hygiene is vital – we should be washing hands regularly and always before touching our face/mouth/eyes/nose or preparing/eating food. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 to 30 seconds, make sure to rub a good lather over the whole hand and all fingers equally and then dry hands fully after. Alcohol gels containing 60 percent or more alcohol content can effectively kill the virus, so regular use of these can help too if you’re away from a tap/soap.
2. Keep your distance (but don't avoid public places or be disrespectful to others)
Staying a reasonable distance from those with clear cough/cold symptoms or those coughing/sneezing can help limit spread, and if we’re showing symptoms of cough/cold then reducing close contact with others is advised. It’s vital we remember not to panic or let anxiety rule the roost however, there’s no need or recommendations in place at present in Australia/NZ that we avoid public places or need to be showing any sign of fear or disrespect to those with a cough or sniffle.
What should you do if you think you have COVID-19?
Seek out correct medical advice
If you’re concerned that yourself or someone you know might have coronavirus, then it’s vital to seek out reputable information and further advice. Particularly if you’re showing cough or cold type symptoms in the context of recent travel to coronavirus-linked areas, or contact with someone who has, then phoning your local health service, hospital or GP is likely the best bet to start with.
A good place to start if you’re concerned or need further advice is the dedicated coronavirus advice lines set up in both Australia and NZ (in Australia it’s 1800 020 080). From here, you’ll be advised on how best to get tested and how to limit the risk of spread to others. Limit close contact with others if you’re showing signs of cold or flu symptoms, and ramp up the hygiene measures above.
Rest and recuperate
At the moment there’s no specific treatment for the virus, or a vaccine. Like any virus, if you’ve got mild to moderate symptoms only then rest, sleep, fluids and basic support measures (panadol as an example) are all most will need. It’s important to know that antibiotics don’t treat viral infections (bacterial infections only), and more specific medical interventions are only needed if infection affects other health conditions (like asthma or heart disease) or causes severe, life-threatening symptoms. Any questions or concerns around how best to support or treat your individual health and other conditions should always come from your doctor or a health professional.
Of course, if you or someone you know is significantly ill or showing signs of serious infection then seeking out medical attention as soon as possible is advised. Any signs of significant chest infection, difficulty breathing, high fever or significant change in health should prompt review with a medical professional.
What shouldn't you do if you suspect you or a loved one has COVID-19?
What we definitely shouldn’t do if we’re worried about coronavirus is panic. It’s understandable to feel some level of anxiety and fear about what we’re seeing and hearing, and there is cause for concern. At the moment, there’s no need for panic however. The vast majority of those with coronavirus infection will suffer mild cold/flu like symptoms only, and the vast majority appears to fully recover. Panic buying doesn’t benefit anyone and bunkering down at home with a month’s worth of food (or toilet paper…) is not what we need to be doing at present.