When not if: Coronavirus advice you need to know


QUEENSLANDERS returning from anywhere overseas are being advised to seek prompt medical help if they fall ill within 14 days under drastic new recommendations aimed at staving off a coronavirus outbreak in the state.

The plea from Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young comes as Australia recorded its first death from COVID-19 in an elderly man from Western Australia.

A woman, 63, also remains in isolation in the Gold Coast University Hospital after testing positive to the new virus within days of returning from Iran last week.




At a news conference today, Dr Young said it was not a matter of if, but when, Queensland had to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19, which has infected more than 86,000 people and killed at least 2900.

Although most of the cases have been in China, the novel virus is spreading so quickly internationally, the World Health Organisation is expected to give it pandemic status within weeks, if not days.

As Queensland health authorities work on trying to contain the virus for as long as possible, Dr Young called on travellers to immediately seek medical advice if they fall ill within two weeks of returning home. She urged them to call 13 HEALTH, go to a hospital emergency department or phone ahead to their general practitioner before attending the surgery for testing.

"That's the way that we will be able to continue to contain this virus here in Queensland so we don't get community transmission," Dr Young said.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young. Photo: Glenn Hunt, AAP.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young. Photo: Glenn Hunt, AAP.

She said signs of COVID-19 included a fever, cough and other flu-like symptoms, but some people had also developed nausea and diarrhoea.

About 100 people a day in Queensland are undergoing testing for the new coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

So far, Queensland has cared for nine people who have developed the virus, including three people who tested positive in Darwin after being evacuated off the Diamond Princess cruise ship and five Chinese tourists.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said all of the cases in Queensland had recovered except for the woman recently returned from Iran and one of the people evacuated off the Diamond Princess, who is still in isolation in hospital.

Dr Young said that so far, public health experts had found no contacts of the woman recently returned from Iran, a Gold Coast beautician, who should be deemed at high risk.

The woman worked at the Hair Plus Salon at Australia Fair on the Gold Coast after flying back into Australia on February 24.

"I've got no concern about people on the plane," Dr Young said.

She said none of the salon staff were considered to be at increased risk and clients who had been assessed at the Gold Coast University Hospital were also not considered to be a high enough risk to go into home isolation.

"They didn't have that sustained 15-minute exposure that is needed to be regarded as a close contact," Dr Young said.