Coronavirus update: Information about the outbreak and how you can protect yourself

George Rehder
3D illustration of Coronavirus, virus which causes SARS and MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Edited, Compiled & Copied by GW Rehder 10/02/2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the new strain of coronavirus a global public health emergency.

The number of confirmed cases of the flu-like infection as of Sunday afternoon had passed 37,000,and more than 800 people have died, surpassing the death toll from the 2003-2003 SARS outbreak.

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about coronavirus, and how you can make sure you’re protected.

How many people have died?

The death toll worldwide stands as 722, with 720 of them in China, according to global health authorities.

On Thursday, the country’s National Health Commission confirmed 549 of the deaths occurred in Hubei province.

According to Johns Hopkins on Saturday, 699 people have died in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak.

On Sunday, the Philippines recorded the first death outside China related to coronavirus. The second death outside China was reported in Hong Kong.

The reported death rate — the percentage of people diagnosed who end up dying from it — is currently estimated at 2.0 per cent, according to the Australian Department of Health.

That’s less than SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

The WHO says 8,000 people became ill with SARS and of those, 774 people died — a rate of 9.6 per cent.

Video: President Moon vows all possible measures to contain coronavirus

How many are infected?

The infection rate continues to climb, with the total number of infections worldwide on Saturday afternoon sitting at 34,824 according to Johns Hopkins, citing data from the WHO and the Centre for Disease Control.

The number of confirmed infections in mainland China is more than 34,500.

Australia’s first case was diagnosed on January 25, and now 15 people in Australia are confirmed to have the virus — four in NSW, four in Victoria, five in Queensland, and two in South Australia.

Two more Australians in China are confirmed to have been infected.

Five Australians are among 64 people who tested positive to for the virus on board a cruise ship moored off the Japanese port of Yokohama.

All patients in Australia are in stable condition, with two people released and declared non-infectious, and the others being kept in isolation.

Australian children trapped in Wuhan by coronavirus


How many countries has it reached?

Twenty-five countries are affected worldwide so far, according to the WHO.

China is by far the country with the most confirmed cases.

Japan is the next, with 25 cases.

There are another 64 people infected with the virus from the cruise ship docked in Japanese waters.

How does it spread?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by what are known as “respiratory droplets” from an infected person — the little secretions we generate when we sneeze or cough.

That’s why the spread of the virus between people has generally occurred through close contact.

There has been no human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus in Australia so far, with all of the people infected in Australia having recently been inChina.

Video: Australian scientists working on coronavirus vaccine  Nine News Australia

Who is at risk?

By far, the largest at-risk group is those who have been in Hubei province in China — in particular, its capital Wuhan — or have been in contact with someone who is a confirmed coronavirus case.

The overwhelming majority of coronavirus cases can be connected, directly or indirectly, to an illegal wildlife market in Wuhan.

The city, as well as at least 16 other neighbouring cities with a combined population of more than 50 million, have been in lockdown since January 24.

If you have not been to China, your risk of contracting coronavirus is significantly lower.

If you were on one particular Tigerair Australia plane between January 27 and 30, you may be contacted by the airline and should immediately get medical attention if you develop symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Many people with the virus look and feel like they have the flu.

From Wuhan to Australia


The symptoms range from more minor ailments — like a sore throat, fatigue, coughing, and a runny nose — to more serious symptoms like difficulty breathing.

Those with severe breathing problems concern doctors the most, as early analysis suggests the virus is more likely to be fatal in people exhibiting serious breathlessness.

The median age of people who have the virus is 57 years old.

Authorities believe people with underlying health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are more likely to catch it, but healthy and younger people have been infected too.

How do people die from it?

In the most severe cases, the virus causes pneumonia — the infection of one or both lungs — which can be deadly.

Other serious complications include respiratory distress or failure, septic shock, acute kidney injury, virus-induced cardiac injury and secondary bacterial pneumonia.

What’s the best way to avoid catching it?

You should be taking every precaution you normally would to avoid catching the flu.

Keep your hands as clean as possible through washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick.

There is no need for the general public to wear face masks.

If you have a trip to anywhere in China planned, Australian authorities are now urging you not to travel.

In any case, it is becoming difficult to get there, with a raft of travel restrictions in place within China and airlines reducing or cancelling services.

What should I do if I have recently returned from China?

If you have returned from anywhere in China, not just Hubei province, authorities are asking you to isolate yourself for 14 days.

If your child has recently returned from China, he or she may be requested or required to stay home from school.

People wear masks at Hong Kong airport.
Passengers wear masks in a Hong Kong subway station.

Time for a reality check

Even if you have been to China or Wuhan, or suspect you have been in contact with someone who has, there is no need to panic.

‘Global health emergency’

The flu is also circulating in Australia at the moment and the fact you might feel sick does not mean you have contracted this new strain of coronavirus.

Hundreds of thousands of people are diagnosed with the flu each year in Australia.

Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said most people who were being tested for coronavirus returned a negative result.

“The main message that we’re trying to give still to the Australian public is that there is no cause for concern,” he said.

“We’re testing a large number of people across the country every day.

“The majority of them are negative as we always expected it to be, but we do expect that it is likely we might find some more positives over the next few days, but we are extremely well prepared.”

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus?

If you have been to China and you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should immediately phone your GP and explain your symptoms and your travel history.

Do not make an appointment or attend a GP practice or hospital without informing them first, as they will need to make arrangements to protect others before you arrive.

How do doctors treat it?

There is no 100 per cent effective treatment for coronavirus, but in most cases, doctors treat it in the same way they treat the flu.

This could involve prescribing antiviral medication used to treat influenzas A and B as well as HIV, or antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections.

There is no vaccine yet, but scientists around the worldincluding in Australia — are working hard to develop one.

What should I do if I’m sick but don’t think I have coronavirus?

Take all the normal steps you would while sick, including keeping your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands frequently.

Throw your tissue into a closed bin immediately after use and avoid spitting in public.

What if I had plans to travel to or from China?

If you had a trip to China planned, the Federal Government is urging you to make other arrangements for the time being.

Authorities have raised travel advice for the whole of mainland China to level 4 — the highest level.

The advice recommends Australians do not travel to mainland China due to the threat of the coronavirus outbreak.

Here’s how the coronavirus travel restrictions will affect you

The government also announced foreign nationals will be denied entry in Australia for 14 days from the time they have left China unless they meet several exceptions.

This restriction will not apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family members.

What is the World Health Organisation doing?

On January 31, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the new strain of coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.

This declaration triggers a suite of recommendations for all countries aimed at preventing or reducing the cross-border spread of disease, while avoiding unnecessary interference with trade and travel.

National health authorities worldwide will be asked to step up their monitoring, preparedness and containment measures.

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