Important information regarding novel coronavirus outbreak

As of 24th January 2020, four cases of the deadly coronavirus have been confirmed in Australia: three in New South Wales and one in Victoria.

Less than a month after China first informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of a number of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan, novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) has spread to 11 countries, infected close to 2000 people and led to 56 deaths.

More than 56 million people are currently in lockdown in mainland China, while Hong Kong has also declared a state of emergency. Estimates of the mortality rate sit at around 4% – higher than Spanish Flu but lower than SARS – while 25% of the confirmed cases are reported to be severe.

What is novel coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They cause illnesses that can range from the common cold to more severe diseases. Severe diseases have included:
•Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
•Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Novel coronavirus (also called 2019-nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus affecting humans.

Health authorities have identified new coronavirus cases in China in early January 2020. We are learning much more about it.

However, we still don’t know enough about:
•how it transmits
•clinical features of disease
•how it spreads
•the source of infection

Health authorities have identified new coronavirus cases in China, South Korea, Thailand Japan, Taiwan, the United States, and Australia.

Symptoms of novel coronavirus

The virus can cause a range of symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Affected people may experience:
•flu like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and headaches
•difficulty breathing

How you can help prevent novel coronavirus

Everyone should practise hygiene and other measures to protect against infections.

These measures include:
•washing your hands
•covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing
•avoiding contact with wild or farm animals


A person is classified as a suspected case if they meet certain criteria. These are:

Clinical criteria:

Fever or history of fever AND acute respiratory infection (shortness of breath or cough or sore throat)


severe acute respiratory infection without fever requiring hospitalisation


Epidemiological criteria:

A history of being in a location designated by the department as a place where there is evidence of human to human transmission in the 14 days prior to symptom onset


Close contact within 14 days of symptom onset with any of the following:
•a confirmed or suspected case of 2019-nCoV;
•a healthcare facility in a country where hospital-associated infections have been reported.

After being assessed by a health professional, a suspected case will be tested for the virus. They might also order a chest x-ray.

What to do if you become unwell

If you become unwell and suspect you may have symptoms of coronavirus, you must seek medical attention.

Please ring ahead of time to book your appointment and inform the receptionist that the appointment may be regarding coronavirus illness. This will help make your doctor aware of your symptoms and your travel history and ensure additional precautions are undertaken to limit exposure to others.

Call 000 if you need urgent medical help.

How is novel coronavirus treated?

Specialist infectious diseases teams will isolate people with symptoms of coronavirus. They will provide supportive medical care to treat any symptoms.

I’m travelling to China, what is the risk of catching novel coronavirus?

International travellers to China should check the latest Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) travel advice on the Smartraveller website.

Most people with confirmed novel coronavirus worked at or visited a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan. Authorities closed this market from 1 January 2020.

Chinese health authorities have now implemented monitoring, control and prevention measures including contact tracing and isolation of cases. Authorities are also closing and sterilising other wet markets in the area.

If you are travelling:
•avoid contact with sick people
•regularly wash your hands
•avoid touching your face and mouth after touching surfaces

These practices are especially important if you have contacted animals.

As a precaution, you should avoid visiting wet markets in general, but particularly in Wuhan.

Health authorities both in Australia and globally are closely monitoring the virus as the situation develops.

For further information for travellers returning from China, please click here.