What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath. The virus can spread from person to person, but good hygiene can prevent infection. Find out who is at risk and what you should do if you think you have COVID-19.
- What are the symptoms?
- Who is most at risk?
- How does it spread?
- How can we help prevent the spread?
- I think I might have coronavirus? What do I do?
- What should I tell my staff?
- What precautions should I take when cleaning?
- Can food and water spread coronavirus?
- Additional resources
People with coronavirus may experience:
- flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue
- shortness of breath
If you are concerned you may have COVID-19, use the symptom checker on healthdirect.
In Australia, the people most at risk of being infected are those who have recently travelled internationally.
Based on experience with other coronaviruses, the people at most risk of serious infection include:
- people with weakened immune systems
- older people
- people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions (such as lung conditions and kidney failure)
- people with diabetes
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have higher rates of chronic illness
- very young children and babies
Like any living organism, viruses like to multiply and spread to make sure they’ll survive. COVID-19 spreads from person to person through droplets that an infected person sneezes or coughs out.
These droplets carrying COVID-19 can enter your body through the mucous membranes (wet parts) of your face – your eyes, nose and mouth – which provide a direct pathway to your throat and lungs. The good news is that it can’t get in through other parts of your body like your skin or your hair, but you might be surprised just how easily it can get to the mucous membranes of your face.
Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses. You should:
wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
- cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
and if unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).
If you have severe difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival about your recent movements and any close contact with an infected person.
If the Symptom Checker tells you to seek medical help, it is very important that you call before visiting your doctor or the hospital emergency department, to describe your symptoms and travel history.
You can also call the Australian Government's National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.
If you have symptoms of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and have travelled overseas in the past 14 days, or have been in contact with someone who has novel coronavirus (COVID-19), you need to see a doctor immediately. Before your appointment, call ahead and tell the staff what your symptoms are and tell them your travel history or that you may have been in contact with a potential case of coronavirus.
Employers should provide information and brief all employees and contract staff, including domestic and cleaning staff where applicable, on relevant information and procedures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. You should inform staff who meet the above criteria that they should remain isolated in their home. Employees should advise their employer if they develop symptoms during the isolation period, particularly if they have been in the workplace. Public health authorities may contact employers in the event an employee is confirmed to have coronavirus.
CCIQ has developed an information guide to address the key safety and employment issues, outlining the base position and additional questions that may arise
When cleaning, staff should minimise the risk of being infected with coronavirus by wearing gloves and using alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves. If cleaning rooms or areas of the workplace where a person with a confirmed case of coronavirus or a person in isolation has frequented staff may wish to wear a surgical mask as an added precaution. If a confirmed case of coronavirus or a person in isolation is in a room that cleaning staff need to enter, they may ask them to put on a surgical mask if they have one available.
Some coronaviruses can potentially survive in the gastrointestinal tract however, food-borne spread is unlikely when food is properly cooked and prepared. With good food preparation and good hand hygiene, it is highly unlikely that you will become infected with coronavirus through food.
It is unknown at this time if the virus is able to survive in sewerage. Those who work closely with sewerage should take the same precautions as those outlined above for cleaners. Drinking water in Australia is high quality and is well treated. It is not anticipated that drinking water will be affected by coronavirus.
- Fact sheet: Information on social distancing
- New and cumulative COVID-19 cases in Australia by notification date
- Infographic: COVID-19 cases in Australia by state and source of transmission
- Resources collection: resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and healthcare managers
- Information on the use of PPE