What are the symptoms?
Patients may have fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and other symptoms.
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.
The first symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza (flu) infections are often very similar. They both cause fever and similar respiratory symptoms, which can then range from mild through to severe disease, and sometimes can be fatal.
Both viruses are also transmitted in the same way, by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with hands, surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus. As a result, the same public health measures, such as hand hygiene (hand washing), good respiratory etiquette (coughing into your elbow or into a tissue and immediately disposing of the tissue) and good household cleaning are important actions to prevent both infections.
The speed of transmission is an important difference between the two viruses. Influenza typically has a shorter incubation period (the time from infection to appearance of symptoms) than COVID-19. This means that influenza can spread faster than COVID-19.
While the range of symptoms for the two viruses is similar, the fraction with severe disease appears to be higher for COVID-19. While most people have mild symptoms, approximately 15% of people have severe infections and 5% require intensive care in a hospital ICU. The proportions of severe and critical COVID-19 infections are higher than for influenza infections.
If you have been overseas in the last 14 days, you should:
- self isolate yourself from others for 14 days from the day you returned or arrived from overseas
- monitor yourself for symptoms
If you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms, please:
- call The Berry Medical Centre or healthdirect on 1800 022 222. When you call, tell them where you have travelled or if you have been in contact with a confirmed case.
or (if your symptoms are severe)
- ring your local Emergency Department Tell staff where you have travelled or if you have been in contact with a confirmed case.
- If you have symptoms it is important that don’t go to work, school/university/childcare, the gym, or public areas, and you should not use public transport, taxis, or ride-sharing services. If you need to seek medical care wear a surgical mask if available when attending. You should not use public transport, taxis, or ride-sharing services to get to your doctor or emergency department.
How is it prevented?
Some simple measures significantly reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 and of spreading it:
- Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand rub/sanitiser.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing or use your elbow, not your hands
- Avoid close contact with people unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms, and stay home if you have these symptoms.
- Avoid touching your face and avoid shaking hands with others.
- Try to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others as much as possible, and avoid crowded places.
There are no vaccines that protect against COVID-19.
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Early diagnosis and general supportive care are important. Most of the time, symptoms will resolve on their own. People who have serious disease with complications can be cared for in hospital.
How do I get tested for COVID-19?
NSW Health is recommending only people with acute, cold, flu-like symptoms who are returned travellers, or a contact of a confirmed case, be tested for COVID-19.