Explaining coronavirus and COVID-19

Posted 4 years ago by Rebecca St Clair
Symptoms of COVID-19 can resemble the common cold or flu. (Source: Shutterstock)
Symptoms of COVID-19 can resemble the common cold or flu. (Source: Shutterstock)

The coronavirus currently spreading around the world is also known as COVID-19. 

What is a coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a large family of viruses which can cause sickness in animals or humans.

The Australian Department of Health says a coronavirus will often cause respiratory infections.

The severity of a coronavirus can range from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Diseases caused by a coronavirus include  Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

According to the World Health Organisation(WHO), coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people.

Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China in December 2019. 

The WHO says that this strain of coronavirus has not been previously found in humans.

Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, the virus was called 2019-nCoV by the WHO, this name is still often used. 

COVID-19 is also referred to as the novel coronavirus, 2019 coronavirus or just coronavirus.

People can catch COVID-19 from other people who have the virus. 

The most common ways that COVID-19 spreads is through:

  • Close contact with an infectious person – people can be infectious before showing symptoms

  • Contact with droplets from an infected persons coughs or sneezes

  • Touching objects or surfaces like doorknobs, handles, or tables that contain cough or sneeze droplets and then touching your mouth or face

Common symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 can resemble the common cold or flu. 

They are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people can be infected with COVID-19 and not develop symptoms or feel unwell. 

The most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever 

  • Tiredness

  • Dy cough 

Some people may also experience: 

  • Aches and pains 

  • Nasal congestion or runny nose 

  • Sore throat 

  • Diarrhea

The WHO has advised that most people recover from the disease without needing special treatment. 

However, they also say that around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and may develop difficulty breathing. 

Who is at risk?

The WHO says that for most people the risk of catching COVID-19 is still low. However, there are now more places around the world where the disease is spreading. 

For people living in, or visiting, these areas, the risk of catching COVID-19 is higher. 

According to the Department of Health, the people most at risk of getting the virus are those who have:

  • Recently been in in a high-risk country or region (mainland China, Iran, Italy or Korea)

  • Been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19

Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, chronic illness, and asthma or other breathing difficulties are more likely to develop severe illnesses as a result of COVID-19.

Others at higher risk of infection and serious illness include: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness).

  • People in group residential settings, including those in group homes. 

  • People in detention facilities, including people in prisons and immigration detention.

The impact on people with a disability 

People living with a disability who fit into the at risk categories will be at higher risk of serious illness.

This includes people who have immunosuppressive illness or who are immunosuppressed because of treatment. 

Currently there are also concerns that the COVID-19 will impact the delivery of disability services. Which may limit someone’s ability to access their usual level of care. 

Ross Joyce, CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) says  “The issues are really about the levels of support for people with a disability and how that can be maintained. How we can ensure that people with disability are provided supports by service providers.”

If you suspect that you may have developed coronavirus, you will need to seek medical attention.

Seeking medical attention 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the Department of Health advises seeking medical attention. 

They have set up a coronavirus Health Information Line to provide information on COVID-19. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be contacted on 1800 020 080.

If you need to seek medical help from a doctor or hospital, call ahead to book an appointment as there may be extra steps they need to take. 

Once you arrive for your appointment call reception to let them know you are there and follow their advice about whether you can into the office. 

You may not be able to go inside to avoid potentially infecting other people.

Related links 

New measures to support NDIS participants and providers
Disability Royal Commission suspended due to COVID-19
Coronavirus may impact services delivered to people with disability

What do you want to know about COVID-19? Leave a comment below so we can look into it for you.