pregnant woman on street wearing medical mask

There is an outbreak of a new or "novel" coronavirus (now referred to as Coronavirus Disease or COVID-19) originating from Wuhan, Hubei Province in China with at least fifteen cases confirmed in Australia so far. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The Australian Government has evacuated 240 Australian citizens from Wuhan and transported them to Christmas Island where the detention centre has been repurposed as a quarantine station where they will stay in isolation for at least 14 days. A further 23 Australians and 12 permanent residents have since been evacuated and transported to Christmas Island via Auckland and Brisbane. 

The virus, which is a new strain closely related to SARS and in the same family of viruses as MERS, has not been detected in humans before. Worldwide, there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1390 deaths reported. That is a roughly 2 to 3% fatality rate. 

The virus commonly causes fever and may cause coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath. Symptoms take 2-14 days to develop. People with disability, especially those with respiratory and lung conditions and older people are at higher risk of infection. So far all confirmed Australian cases were contracted while travelling overseas. 

If you have symptoms and have either travelled to Hubei Province, China in the last two weeks or if you have been in close contact with someone who has, NSW Health advises you should call your doctor or call the Health Direct Health Information Line. Do not present to your doctor's surgery or emergency department without calling ahead so they can make arrangements to isolate you from other patients. 

Practice good hygiene by covering your coughs and sneezes and washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. You should wear a mask if you have one and avoid public transport and public places. There isn't a known treatment or vaccine for novel coronavirus as of yet.

More information

NSW Health has developed a factsheet on the Novel coronavirus 2019 (2019 n-CoV) and Frequently Asked Questions resources, available in English and Simplified Chinese.

Visit NSW Health or Australian Department of Health for further alerts and updates.


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