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What to Know About Coronavirus — COVID-19 Explained

Your Health / Conditions / COVID-19 / What to Know About Coronavirus — COVID-19 Explained​​​​​​​

Published on Mar 16, 2020​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Authored by Kate Porz, BPharm


What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause respiratory illnesses in humans ranging from common colds to more severe conditions such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).1

The coronavirus involved in the current outbreak has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (or “COVID-19”).2,3

How does the virus spread?

COVID-19 can spread from person to person:​​​​​​​

  • through close contact with an infected person
  • contact with droplets that are spread into the air when an infected person coughs,sneezes, talks or sings
  • touching objects or surfaces (e.g. doorknobs) that have droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face4,5

Droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who may be close by. Spread is more likely when people are within 6 feet of distance of each other.

COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community in many areas that are affected. This is referred to as community spread which means people have been infected with the virus and may then pass it on to others they come in contact with.

What are the symptoms?4,5

People with COVID-19 may have symptoms that range from mild to severe. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. It may be possible for an infected person who is not yet showing any symptoms to spread the virus.

For those who develop symptoms, these may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

If you are concerned you may have COVID-19 you can use the HealthDirect symptom checker

How to protect yourself from coronavirus2,7,8

Practicing good hygiene is very important and is the best way to protect others and yourself. When possible maintain at least 1.5 meters distance between yourself and others. Since some infected persons may not yet be exhibiting symptoms or their symptoms may be mild, maintaining a physical distance with everyone is a good idea.

To help prevent getting COVID 19:

Wash your hands often

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Avoid close contact

Avoid close contact. Put at least 1.5 meters distance between you and any person when outside your house.

Cover your mouth and nose

Cover your mouth and nose with a mask or cloth face cover when around others at all times.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

Monitor your health daily

Monitor your health daily and follow Australian Government guidance if symptoms develop.

What to do if you suspect you are infected?5,9

If you have a fever, cough, or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19. To stop the spread of COVID-19 people with even mild symptoms of respiratory infection should get tested. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 you should immediately go and get tested.

Keep track of your symptoms because things could get worse quickly. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), get emergency medical care immediately.

Find out more information about where to get tested by visiting:

PP-CMR-ANZ-0001. 10/21.



  1. Coronavirus. World Health Organisation. "https://www.who.int/westernpacific/health-topics/detail/coronavirus. Accessed 15 Sep 2021
  2. Q&A on coronaviruses. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses. Accessed 20 Sep 2021.
  3. WHO Director-General's remarks at the media briefing on 2019-nCoV on 11 February 2020. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-2019-ncov-on-11-february-2020. Accessed 20 Sep 2021.
  4. FAQ: Spread and transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html. Accessed 20 Sep 2021.
  5. What you need to know about coronavirus (COVID 19). Australian Government. https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/ongoing-support-during-coronavirus-covid-19/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19. Accessed 13 Sept 2021.
  6. Symptoms of Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html. Accessed 15 Sep 2021.
  7. How to Protect Yourself & Others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.
  8. Physical distancing for coronavirus (COVID-19). Australian Government. https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/how-to-protect-yourself-and-others-from-coronavirus-covid-19/physical-distancing-for-coronavirus-covid-19. Accessed 15 Sep 2021.
  9. What to Do If You Are Sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html. Accessed 20 Sep 2021.

Last reviewed 03/02/2020

External Resources

-World Health Organisation: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for public
-Australian Government Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
-Ministry of Health New Zealand: COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
-Australian Government Department of Health: Vaccination Program
-Ministry of Health New Zealand: Vaccination Program

Related Topics

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