There has been a lot of panic and mass hysteria around coronavirus (COVID-19) recently. From empty supermarket shelves to fights breaking out over toilet paper, there’s no disputing that Australians are resorting to extreme measures during this epidemic.

This panic is likely being fuelled by the media and the conflicting messages we are hearing about COVID-19. With a virus that is so unknown, it’s no wonder so many Australians are feeling scared and concerned of what is to come.

To help alleviate some of this uncertainty and confusion, we’ve gathered answers to a very important and valid question that hasn’t seemed to heavily feature in the media – what do I do if I think I may have coronavirus?.

 

Symptoms – what to look out for.

COVID-19 symptoms you should look out for include:

  • Ordinary flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, a cough, runny nose or shortness of breath. These are the main symptoms in the early stages of the illness and some patients may not even progress to more severe illness, such as pneumonia.
  • Dyspnoea, a condition that causes difficulty with breathing, is said to be common in hospitalised patients, but at the time of admission, they indicated that vital signs were generally stable. Older patients with an underlying disease are more likely to progress to severe disease.

It’s also important to remember that if you do have any of these symptoms, it may not necessarily mean you have coronavirus, as it could be another illness such as influenza.

 

I think I may have coronavirus – what should I do?

  • If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should remain at home and arrange to see your doctor for assessment.
  • Give your GP a call and make them aware of your symptoms, travel history (e.g. have you travelled outside the country recently?) and any recent close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • Your GP will arrange testing for COVID-19, which is likely to occur in a public health laboratory.
  • You should confirm whether it is appropriate to wear a mask to the testing facility to prevent potential spread.

 

What does testing involve?

  • Current testing for coronavirus includes swabs from inside the nose and the back of the throat.
  • The timeframe to confirm a test result depends on where the specimen is collected, and turnaround times vary between jurisdictions.
  • Patients are asked to isolate themselves while waiting for a result.

The processes and recommendations around testing and quarantine are being updated daily as the situation changes, and could be amended if and when more cases of the virus spread in the community. You can keep up-to-date on the latest information by visiting the Australian Government’s Department of Health website.

 

The results are in and I’ve tested positive – what now?

  • Don’t panic! From what we know so far, while the virus has a high infection rate, the virus itself is less deadly than common influenza, and like the flu it is vulnerable people (like the elderly) who are most at risk.*
  • You’ll be given information about next steps from health professionals. This will likely involve a 14-day isolation period where you’ll remain at home.
  • Being in isolation can be stressful and boring, so you should find ways to relax and keep your mind occupied. This may include:
    • Where possible, keeping up normal daily routines, such as eating well and exercising.
    • Arranging to work from home.
    • Keeping in touch with family and friends via phone, email or social media.
    • Doing things that can help you relax and use isolation as an opportunity to do activities you don’t usually have time for.
  • Public health authorities will inform you when it is safe for you to return to your usual activities.

 

It’s important that we fight the fear that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing, and go about our daily lives with increased hygiene practices and trust in the government and health system. To learn more about how you can stay safe and healthy during this time, take a read of our article on Protecting yourself against the spread of coronavirus.

 

* Mayo Clinic, 2020. COVID-19 vs seasonal flu: what you need to know about both.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call the emergency services immediately.