Coronavirus Resource & Information

About the Virus: Fast Facts

What it is

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe infections such as pneumonia. Members of the Coronavirus family are also responsible for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory syndrome (MERS) that have occurred in the recent past.

The provisional name for this new Coronavirus was previously labelled 2019-nCoV but has now been determined to a strain of the type of coronavirus that caused SARS. To reflect this, it has now been classified as SARS-CoV-2.

Disease name

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) named this disease (not the virus) as COVID-19.

Incubation period

The incubation period varies but the majority of cases develop from 2 – 14 days after exposure.

Peak infectivity is still being clarified however it is generally believed that people with symptomatic COVID-19 are most infectious 2 days prior to developing symptoms and 72 hours after symptoms end.


Mild symptoms
• Fever
• Flu-like symptoms such as – cough, sore throat, headaches
• Difficulty Breathing

Serious symptoms
• Pneumonia
• Respiratory Failure
• Kidney failure
• Death

  • Respiratory – sneezing, coughing – i.e. aerosol route via droplets
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
  • Person-to-person spread
Risk Factors

Preliminary data on people infected with COVID 19 shows a low fatality rate in those without any current medical conditions. Increased mortality has been demonstrated in:

  • Elderly people

And in those with medical co-morbid conditions such as:

  • Chronic respiratory disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes

Personal Preventative Measures are essential in reducing the risk of contracting the illness and in minimising spread of disease – see in detail below.


Major studies and trials are being undertaken on medication to treat COVID-19 and some medication – such as the anti-viral drug remdesivir – have been shown to be of limited effectiveness in severe cases of COVID 19.

At present there is no single drug, or drug regime, prescribed for management of COVID-19 and supportive treatment remains a main stay of management.



Geographical Spread

The Centre for Systems, Science and Engineering at John Hopkins have built a tool aggregating data from the WHO as well as centres for disease control in the USA, China and Europe. It has all Coronavirus confirmed, suspected and recovered patient statistics and deaths associated with the disease. It provides a convenient overview of consolidated reporting but links are provided below to WHO and CDC sites that also provides statistics.

Case Definitions

The definition of what constitutes a Confirmed, Probable and Suspected case of COVID-19 varies from country to country and these criteria change with increased understanding of COVID-19 characteristics, emerging disease patterns and the stage of the pandemic  and success of control measures within each jurisdiction.

The following criteria are representative of the case definitions utilised in Australia:

A “Confirmed” case

A person who tests positive to a validated specific SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test or has the virus identified by electron microscopy or viral culture or has an appropriately documented serological rise or seroconversion.

A “Probable” case

A person who:

has not been tested, with fever (≥37.5°C)2 or history of fever (e.g. night sweats, chills) OR acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) AND is a household contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19;


has detection of SARS-CoV-2 neutralising or IgG antibody AND has had a compatible clinical illness AND is a close contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.



A “Suspect” case

Clinical and public health judgement should be used to determine the need for testing in hospitalised patients and patients who do not meet the clinical or epidemiological criteria.

A person who meets the following clinical AND epidemiological criteria:

Clinical criteria

Fever (≥37.5°C)  or history of fever (e.g. night sweats, chills) OR acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat).

Epidemiological criteria

In the 14 days prior to illness onset:

  • Close contact with a confirmed or probable case
  • International or interstate travel
  • Passengers or crew who have travelled on a cruise ship
  • Healthcare, aged or residential care workers and staff with direct patient contact
  • People who have lived in or travelled through a geographically localised area with elevated risk of community transmission, as defined by public health authorities

Hospitalised patients, where no other clinical focus of infection or alternate explanation of the patient’s illness is evident.


Personal Preventative Measures (PPM)

Prevent yourself from getting sick

Prevent yourself from getting sick

Wet markets

  • “Wet Markets” are markets which sell both live and dead animals (as opposed to “Dry Markets” which sell goods like electronics and clothing).
  • They are so named because of the practice of large quantities of water being used to wash down the floors of the market.
  • This allows the mixture of bodily fluids and blood from live, wild creatures to mix with the blood from slaughtered animals thereby providing an ideal medium for bacteria and viruses to flourish.
  • It is believed that the novel coronavirus originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China though this is still being investigated.

Prevent yourself from getting sick


Wash hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand gel
Aerosol transmission by covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough with a tissue – discard tissue immediately and wash hands as per above
Consider avoiding others with cough and fever and wet markets

Masks and Respirators

Face Masks

A face mask is a loose-fitting disposable device whose purpose is to create a physical barrier between the wearer’s mouth and nose and potential contaminants in the immediate surrounds. They come in different thicknesses and may help block large-particle droplets as well as sprays and splatter that may contain bacteria and viruses. They also help prevent your saliva from contaminating others.

Does wearing a surgical face mask help reduce the risk of Coronavirus infection?

The use of face masks in asymptomatic people is a controversial one and the official guidance varies from country to country. Some countries, such as the USA, now recommend the use of face masks in public for all people whereas the advice in Australia, at present, is that the routine use of masks in the community is currently not recommended, while the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 is low.

A mask is not a substitute for other precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19:

  • staying at home when unwell, with even mild respiratory symptoms
  • especially if employed in a high-risk occupation eg health or aged care or in quarantine because of increased risk of developing COVID-19
  • a person who develops symptoms of acute respiratory infection should seek testing for COVID-19
  • physical distancing (staying >1.5m away from others)
  • hand hygiene (and avoidance of touching potentially contaminated surfaces)
  • cough etiquette/respiratory hygiene.


Reasons to possibly wear face masks:

  • The use of surgical face masks may reduce the risk of infection from many respiratory infections that are spread through droplets and aerosol routes and that includes coronavirus and influenza viruses.
  • It helps prevent you touching your face and mouth.

Reasons to not wear face masks:

  • Unless worn correctly, they do not provide an adequate seal around the face and mouth. Especially if the user has a moustache or beard;
  • Wearing a mask continually can be uncomfortable and exhausting as they are not designed to be used for prolonged periods of time.
  • Depending on the type of mask used, the coronavirus virus may be smaller than those filtered by most of the masks so won’t necessarily be blocked by them.
  • They can give a false sense of security and result in neglect of more important measures, such as hand and respiratory hygiene
  • Touching the mask during use or when removing it can contaminate the hands
  • Risks are compounded if masks are reused – they should be discarded after use
  • Masks will be less effective if they become damp or damaged.


P2/N95 Masks (Respirators)

Enquiries have been received about the potential use of P2/N95 respirators in preventing infection.

A N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device which is generally used in the healthcare setting by healthcare professionals who require a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. They are not designed for children or those with facial hair.

The “N95” designation refers to the fact that at least 95% of very small particles (0.3 microns) are blocked by the respirator. They do, however, need to be properly fitted but even then, they do not completely eliminate the risk of illness as coronaviruses are generally smaller than 0.3 microns. Different manufacturers have different ‘collection efficiencies’ below this 0.3 micron cut-off so provide varying protection to filtering coronaviruses.

It has been noted however that the coronavirus transmission is often on larger particles (e.g. droplets) thereby making it easier to filter.

Fit checking
Fit checking involves a quick check – each time the N95 mask is put on – to ensure that the respirator is properly applied, that a good seal is achieved over the bridge of the nose and mouth and there are no gaps between the respirator and face. Fit checking is the appropriate minimum standard at the point of use for any person using P2/N95 respirators.

A presentation of how to perform this is provided in the following link:


Travel Advice

Travel Advice to FHA Clients

Advice for Australians Departing Australia 
Australian Border Restrictions 
Contact Information 

Aviation Advice


Preventative measures when flying

The risk of sitting next to someone infected with COVID-19 is low but some general sanitary principles recommended by aviation authorities and the CDC to be used with travelling and flying include:

Personal environment
1 Washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
This remains the single most important infection control measure. Use alcohol-based hand rub (containing at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.
2 Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer
(the CDC recommends at least 60% alcohol in case water isn’t nearby).
3 Do NOT fly if you feel sick or have symptoms.
  In-Flight environment
The best preventative measure in-flight is not to sit within one to two rows of a sick traveller however this is hard to determine in advance and often impossible to change seats. Other general in-flight measures you can use to minimise the risk of contact with unwell passengers are:


1 Ask for a window seat.
One study which modelled the behaviour of airline passengers found the window seat provided the least contact with other people;
2 Turn on your air vent.
This could help reduce the risk from airborne pathogens. Turn the air vent on low or medium and direct the air to your lap;
3 Wipe down your tray table, armrest and seat with hand wipes.
These have been found to harbour some of the highest concentrations of germs;
4 Avoid in-flight magazines, blankets and pillows,
as there is no guarantee that they have been recently cleaned and also harbour high concentrations of germs.