Coronavirus screening informed by previous virus responses

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today that the public can be assured that all steps are being taken to contain the spread of the Coronavirus within Australia.

Dr Bartone said that experience in screening and detecting previous foreign originating viruses has positioned Australia to respond to Coronavirus.

“Australia and the international community have learnt from earlier international virus outbreaks, the spread of SARS across Asia in particular,” Dr Bartone said.

“Lessons from earlier virus outbreaks are being implemented across Australia, which is why we’ve seen rapid detection and isolation of at-risk patients.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that Coronavirus knowledge is still emerging, but fever is known as the most prominent symptom in early stages.

Dr Bartone said that GPs and Emergency Department doctors are at the front line of virus detection.

“They need the support of the entire community as they screen for the illness,” Dr Bartone said.

“They also require extensive, continuous, and coordinated resourcing and information from international and local authorities to assist in shutting down the new virus.

“Governments and health organisations are working to get up-to-date information to doctors, both in Australia and internationally.

“Doctors are looking for fever, cough, shortness of breath, pulmonary or respiratory symptoms in recent travellers from China’s Hubei province and its main city, Wuhan.

“Officials in Hubei have reported a number of mild cases, some of whom have completely recovered.

“Advice is that all four cases screened and isolated in Australia are currently stable.

“China has stopped people in Hubei province from travelling, reducing risk of virus spread.

“Australia’s focus is to screen and isolate potential cases to prevent human to human contact.”

Dr Bartone said community vigilance was necessary across coming days to ensure any recent traveller from Hubei province was isolated if fever or respiratory symptoms appeared.

Doctors are advised to report at-risk patients to State or Territory Public Health Units or Communicable Disease Branches, and to monitor local health department updates.

People recently travelling from Hubei province with fever and respiratory symptoms should phone their General Practice or hospital Emergency Department prior to attendance. Phoning ahead is essential to limiting possible human to human virus transfer.

Dr Bartone said the World Health Organisation is monitoring the global effort to track and halt further spread, and the Australian Chief Medical Officer is keeping all informed.

“The AMA will continue to work closely with governments and its doctor members to ensure all efforts are directed to halting further virus development,” Dr Bartone said.

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