Health Check

Everything you need to know about COVID-19

What it is, its symptoms, how it’s spread, who’s at risk, and how you can prevent it.

Written by Editor Medibank

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new disease in humans. It's caused by a coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that are known to affect humans, but this virus is new and so we have no immunity except in people who have already recovered.
Coronaviruses can cause the common cold, as well as more serious respiratory infections including bronchitis and pneumonia.

Generally, people infected with COVID-19 will have a relatively mild illness and recover without special treatment, however older people, and those with pre-existing conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, are at greater risk of developing something more serious.

What are the symptoms?

It’s important to note that COVID-19 affects people differently, but the most common symptoms are:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • fatigue
  • breathing difficulties.

Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • aches and pains
  • and in some cases, diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.

How does it spread?

The virus spreads from person to person. Most people who spread the disease have symptoms, but in a small number of cases people can be contagious and able to spread the disease in the 24 hours prior to developing symptoms.

It’s spread through:

  • contact with respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze from someone who’s infected.
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have droplets from an infected person on them, and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.

Who is most at risk?

In Australia, the people most at risk:

  • overseas travellers, including cruise ships
  • people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • people in correctional and detention facilities
  • those living in group residential settings
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are 50 years or older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • people who are 65 years or older with chronic medical conditions
  • anyone aged over 70 years
  • people with compromised immune systems.

Are children at risk?

At this stage, it’s not clear what the risk is to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19. However, so far, the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children is low.

How do I prevent myself from getting COVID-19?

To help protect yourself and loved ones from COVID-19, it’s important to do the following:

  • wash your hands regularly with soap (for at least 20 seconds) or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • keep at least 1.5 metres distance between you and others (including those in your household if they have cold and flu symptoms)
  • avoid touching your face
  • cough and sneeze into your elbow, or use a tissue and dispose of it immediately
  • stay home unless necessary
  • open your windows to allow more fresh air in your home
  • disinfect surfaces such as benchtops and doorknobs regularly
  • clean objects like phones, keys, and wallets
  • use tap-and-go facilities rather than cash payments
  • try to quit or refrain from smoking
  • practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.

If we all practice these preventative measures, we’ll help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Find out more

Written by Editor Medibank

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