COVID-19

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COVID-19

DEFINITION

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new form of coronavirus.

DESCRIPTION

WHAT IS A CORONAVIRUS?

Coronaviruses form a large family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses. These include the common cold as well as more serious diseases like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). COVID-19 is a newly discovered coronavirus.

Many animals also have coronavirus-related illnesses. When one of those viruses mutates and passes onto humans, the disease can be more severe because the human body has not developed immunity to it. Both the SARS and MERS diseases are examples of this happening in recent years1.

WHO IS AT RISK?

The following people are at increased risk of developing serious illness if they get COVID-192:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 50 years and older, with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • those 70 years or older
  • those with a chronic condition or compromised immune system
  • people with a disability

DELTA VARIANT

The COVID-19 Delta variant was first identified in December 2020. Within a matter of months, this particular variant spread to over 98 countries around the world. The Delta variant is now the dominant variant of COVID-19 worldwide. It is highly transmissible and causes more severe disease than previous variants. COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalisation or death from Delta3.

OMICRON VARIANT
The Omicron COVID-19 variant was first reported in South Africa on 24 November 2021. It is quickly spreading across the world and is now the dominant variant in some regions of Australia. Early studies suggest that Omicron is less likely to make people seriously ill than previous Covid variants, however, large numbers of Omicron infections will have a negative impact on the health system in Australia. Omicron is highly contagious and can infect people even if they are fully vaccinated.

Strong evidence indicates that booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines are likely to increase protection against infection with the Omicron variant4.
 

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly. People with COVID-19 may experience symptoms such as5:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath

Other symptoms can include:

  • runny nose
  • acute blocked nose (congestion)
  • headache
  • muscle or joint pains
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • loss of sense of smell
  • altered sense of taste
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical advice and get tested.

PREVENTION (AUS)

A vaccine teaches your body to fight the infection by stopping you from catching COVID-19, or at least making it less deadly.

The Australian Government has secured the following COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Pfizer (Comirnaty)
  • AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)
  • Moderna (Spikevax)

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone living in Australia. You do not need a prescription from a GP to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary. Vaccination protects against serious illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19. The vaccine you receive may depend on6:

  • availability
  • the clinical guidelines that determine who each vaccine is safe for

You can also reduce your chances of being infected with or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions7:

  • regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water
  • maintain at least 1.5 metres distance between yourself and others
  • avoid going to crowded places
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands
  • face masks help stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) but feels well. Face masks are an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones
  • stay at home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others
  • if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority

SAFETY CONCERNS

A rare but serious side effect has been identified, involving thrombosis (clotting) with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) in a small number of people following vaccination with the COVID-19 AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine. 

The Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) recommends that the COVID-19 Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine is preferred over the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine in adults aged under 60 years. The ATAGI also recommends that people under 60 years who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine should have their second dose8.

COVID-19 vaccination is available through general practice respiratory clinics, and state and territory vaccination clinics. These sites have been expanded to participating general practices.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR COVID-19 VACCINATION?

Access to Comirnaty (Pfizer)
You can book an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine if you are 12 years old or over. Appointments are now also open for children aged 5 to 11 years.
 

Access to Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca)
You can book an appointment for the AstraZeneca vaccine if you are:

  • 60 years old and over
  • 18 to 59 years old – you can choose to have AstraZeneca after discussing with your health professional.

Access to Spikevax (Moderna)
You can book an appointment for the Moderna vaccine if you are 12 years old or over9.

BOOSTER VACCINATION

You are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose if:

  • you are 18 years and older, and
  • have had your second dose of your primary dose course of COVID-19 vaccination at least 4 months ago. At the end of January, this will change to 3 months.

Booster doses are not mandatory, however they are recommended to maintain immunity against COVID-19. A booster dose increases your protection against:

  • infection with the virus that causes COVID-19
  • severe disease
  • dying from COVID-19.

Two doses of COVID-19 vaccine provide very good protection, especially against severe disease. A booster dose will make sure the protection from the first two doses is even stronger and longer lasting, and should help prevent spread of the virus.11.

PREVENTION (GENERIC)

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by having the COVID-19 vaccination (see your GP for advice) and taking some simple precautions12:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Maintain at least 1.5 metres distance between yourself and others.
  • Avoid going to crowded places.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
  • Face masks help stop droplets spreading when someone speaks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) but feels well. Face masks are an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones.
  • Stay at home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others.
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority.

NOTES (Aust)

Wearing a face mask protects you and your community by providing an additional physical barrier to coronavirus (COVID-19).  For a face mask to be effective, it must fit well and cover your nose and mouth. This means that face shields, bandanas, or scarves or loose snoods, loose buffs or loose neck gaiters on their own will not provide effective protection from COVID-19.

Call 1800 020 080 if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19) or help with the COVIDSafe app. This line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need to get tested, you can:

  • attend a free COVID-19 respiratory clinic
  • contact your doctor and they will arrange the test, this may attract a fee

COVID-19 respiratory clinics are dedicated health centres located around the country, focusing on testing people with symptoms of respiratory infection.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Vaccination is a safe and effective means of preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19. There is  no cure for COVID-19, however medical care can treat most of the symptoms. Seek medical attention and testing if:

  • you think you might have COVID-19
  • in the last 14 days you have been to a country or area with a high risk of COVID-19
  • you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE COVID-19

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, stay at home. You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection. Follow these steps:

  • having some basic things on hand will help with infection control and managing symptoms
  • stay at home and ask other people to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
  • rest, drink plenty of fluid, and eat nutritious food
  • only people who usually live with you should be in your home. Do not let in visitors
  • stay in a separate room from other family members and use a dedicated bathroom if possible
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • if you need to leave home to seek medical attention, wear a surgical mask and practise regular hand washing to protect others13

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  1. Ask your Pharmacist for the most up-to-date information about the COVID-19 vaccination.
  2. Ensure everyone in your family has enough medication at home. If any prescriptions are due for a refill, make sure you submit them to your Pharmacy.
  3. If you do become unwell, ask your Pharmacist if medical supplies can be delivered to your home.
  4. To help prevent spreading or contracting the virus, practise regular hand washing. Soap is available from your Pharmacy. Hand sanitiser gel may also be available and can be used if soap and water are not available.
  5. Surgical masks can help prevent the spread of infection. These are available from your Pharmacy.
  6. If you do become unwell, paracetamol or ibuprofen will help to control your fever. Make sure you have enough on hand for yourself and family members. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
  7. It is also important to stay well hydrated. Powders and solutions containing electrolytes are available from your Pharmacy.

Source

  1. About coronaviruses. Health Direct. Australian Govt Dept of Health. Last updated Dec 2021. Available from URL: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/about-coronaviruses
  2. Advice for groups at greater risk. Aust Govt Dept of Health. Last updated Jan 2022. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/advice-for-groups-at-ri...
  3. COVID-19 Delta variant. Australian Govt Dept of Health. Last updated Dec 2021. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/symptoms-and-variants/delta
  4. ATAGI statement on the Omicron variant and the timing of COVID-19 booster vaccination. Australian Govt Dept of Health. Last updated 24 Dec 2021. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-the-omicron-variant-an...
  5. What you need to know about Coronavirus. Last updated 30 July 2021. Available from URL: 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#symptoms
  6. COVID-19 vaccines. Aust Govt Dept of Health. Cited 17 Dec 2020. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/COVID-19-vaccines
  7. Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the public. World Health Organisation. Last updated 4 June 2020. Available from URL: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
  8. COVID-19 vaccine update. 18 June 2021. Available from URL: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/protect-yourself-others/covid-19-vaccine 
  9. Who can get vaccinated. Aust Govt Dept of Health. Last updated Dec 2021. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/who....
  10. COVID-19 vaccination program for people aged under 40. Aust Govt Dept of Health. Last updated Aug 30. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/getting-vaccinated-for-covid-19/covid-19-vaccination-program-for-people-aged-under-40
  11. COVID_19 booster vaccine advice. Aust Govt Dept of Health. Last updated 4 Jan 2022. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/get...
  12. Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the public. World Health Organisation. Last updated 4 June 2020. Available from URL: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
  13. Coronavirus. Aust Govt Dept of Health. Cited Mar 2020. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov#what-is-coronavirus-covid19

 

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