This video from UQ Professor David Paterson provides some more information. David is one of Australia’s most respected and highly cited infectious diseases physicians.

What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses similar to the common cold and more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The strain of coronavirus from Wuhan is new and has not been previously identified in humans. It has been named COVID-19.

Most people infected live in, or travelled to, Hubei province, China recently. There have been cases of coronavirus reported in other Chinese provinces and other countries.

This coronavirus is also being referred to by various sources as ‘novel coronavirus’ and ‘2019-nCov'. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include (but are not limited to) fever, cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

How is COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread?

It is likely that the virus originally came from an animal, and there is evidence that it can spread from person-to-person.

Who is at risk?

Those at highest risk of being infected are people who have travelled from Wuhan (or the Hubei province) in the last 14 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Preliminary information suggests that people with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease and the elderly would be at risk of more severe disease if infected.

At this stage it is believed that symptoms occur within approximately 2 weeks of exposure.

How can I help protect myself?

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses include:

  • Frequently cleaning hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or a tissue – throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough
  • If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider.

Please observe and comply with health-related signage around the University.

Do face masks protect against the virus? Which face masks?

There is no indication or evidence that masks are needed in day-to-day activities around UQ or while using public transport.

Queensland Health advises that based on current advice, only people who have returned from mainland China and are unwell and have access to a face mask should use it.  For anyone else who does not have symptoms, a face mask is not necessary.

Within a health care setting, P2 masks are likely to provide some protection against the virus for those who are in close contact such as treating or testing a person with symptoms.

We keep being told that washing our hands is good practice. What is the most effective way?

Frequently washing your hands, especially before eating, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of illness or contamination from things that you may have touched.

Basic soap and water is as good at cleaning your hands as any hand disinfectant or sanitiser. The sad reality is, about 25% of people don't wash their hands at all, and of those who do, they don't wash them frequently or adequately. In fact those who do wash their hands on average do so for only around 10 seconds which at best will remove about 90% of germs.

It should take about 30 seconds to wash your hands adequately (steps 1-9 in link below). Otherwise, the remaining bacteria will grow and can double in number in less than 20 minutes! It doesn't matter what you use to wash your hands, if your technique is poor then your hands will not be clean.

The 10 steps of Good hand-washing:

  1. Thoroughly wet hands
  2. Apply soap or cleanser
  3. Rub your hands palm to palm
  4. Rub your palms over back of each hand, interlacing your fingers
  5. Rub palm to palm with interlaced fingers
  6. circle tips of fingers into the opposite palm
  7. clean your thumbs
  8. clean your wrists
  9. rinse thoroughly
  10. pat dry, preferably with disposable paper towels.

Make sure you clean under rings too, that’s where many germs hide.

Practice other good health habits as well:

  • Always wash your hands before you eat or prepare food
  • Sneeze or cough into sleeve/elbow, or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the bin
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water especially after you cough or sneeze, and after using the toilet
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to help prevent the spread of germs
  • Always clean your hands after using public touchscreen technology, surfaces in public spaces, and especially before eating

What is the appropriate cough and sneeze etiquette?

We are about to move into the usual Australian flu season and the presence of colds and flu will become more common. We can all help to prevent the spread of viruses and other infections. It is important to know the best way to manage your coughs and sneezes as the advice may have changed since you were taught these manners by your parents as a child!

  1. Always carry tissues.
  2. When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth.
  3. Germs can live for several hours on tissues - dispose of your tissue straight away.
  4. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow - NOT your hand.
  5. After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, wash your hands with soap and water (it should take about 30 seconds).