(Coronavirus disease – 19 caused by SARS-CoV-2)

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause respiratory infections. These can range from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). This new coronavirus originated in Hubei Province, China and the disease caused by the virus is named COVID-19.


  • 2–14 days after exposure


  • Fever and/or dry cough, tiredness, shortness of breath


  • Asymptomatic – to severe viral pneumonia
  • Taking into account undiagnosed cases, experts estimate actual mortality to be around 1% (compared with flu ~0.1%, SARS 10% and MERS 34%)
  • Most severe cases weighted heavily towards the elderly (>80 years) and those with pre-existing conditions
  • Transmission appears to be more containable than flu, with current travel restrictions in place/contact tracing and social distancing

Preventing spread

If well and to prevent inadvertently contracting the virus:

  • Regular hand hygiene
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if you have not washed your hands
  • Regularly wipe down surfaces exposed to sick people
  • Face masks are currently not recommended as a preventative measure for people who have not had any potential exposure to the coronavirus
  • Reconsider overseas travel – what if I need hospitalisation overseas?
  • Focus on maintaining good health (healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and leisure/relaxation with regular breaks from constant news feeds)
    If unwell and to prevent transmission to others:
  • Good cough/sneeze etiquette – into tissues, then wash hands or into elbow/upper arm
  • Stay at home if not completely well (and practise ‘social distancing, that is, stay at least 1.5 metres away from others, avoid crowds etc)


  • Currently symptomatic/supportive treatment only
  • Trials of antivirals in progress (remdesivir and ritonavir/lopinivir)
  • Vaccine still likely at least 12–18 months before ready
  • Obtain influenza vaccine to prevent concurrent flu and coronavirus infection