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What you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19)

Learn about COVID-19, how it spreads, who is at risk, what to do if you think you have it, and what resources and support are available to you.


What is COVID-19

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. These can range from the common cold to more serious diseases.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a form of coronavirus. 

Other coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).



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 coronavirus may experience symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • respiratory symptoms
  • ocoughing
  • osore throat
  • oshortness 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 and fatigue.

To stop the spread of COVID-19 people with even mild symptoms of respiratory infection should get tested.


How it spreads

The virus can spread from person to person through:

  • close contact with an infectious person (including in the 48 hours before they had symptoms)
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face.

COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is no existing immunity in our community. This means that COVID-19 could spread widely and quickly.


Who is most at risk

In Australia, the people most at risk of catching the virus are:

  • travellers who have recently been overseas
  • those who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • people in correctional and detention facilities
  • people in group residential settings.

You are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 if you:

  • are age 70 years and older
  • have certain conditions which compromise their immune systems.
  • You are at moderate risk of serious illness from COVID-19 if you:
  • have certain chronic conditions.

If you have any medical conditions it is recommended you discuss your individual risk and what you can do to protect yourself with your treating doctor. See our advice for people at risk.

At this stage the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population. For more information about COVID-19 and children please read this fact sheet.

There is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women.


How long will the symptoms last?

It is currently uncertain how long these symptoms may persist. COVID-19 is a novel virus so most studies have only reported up to 6 months after a diagnosis with COVID-19. However, the number of people experiencing these symptoms is known to decrease over time. In a large survey of people in the United Kingdom who had COVID-19, 22% still reported at least one symptom at 5 weeks following their initial infection. In that survey, nearly 10% of people reported at least one symptom at 12 weeks.

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