Information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19) - symptoms and what to do to reduce the risk of infection.
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Information for everyone

What are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you have any of the symptoms, however mild, you should seek advice and get tested. To get further advice, call the 24-hour coronavirus hotline 1800 675 398, your general practitioner or use our online self-assessment tool.

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Loss or changes in sense of smell or taste
  • Fever
  • Chills or sweats
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose

In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be considered.

What if I feel tired or fatigued?

Feeling tired or fatigued is common with a lot of illnesses, including coronavirus (COVID-19). If you are feeling tired and have any of the symptoms, you should see your doctor about getting tested for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Who is most at risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Anybody can get coronavirus (COVID-19) if they have contact with a person. We know that some people are at higher risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19) because of where they have been, or where they live.

  • Overseas travellers and close contacts

Because coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread in other countries, overseas travellers are at a high risk of getting coronavirus. See the International travellers section on this site

  • Close contact

People who have had close contact with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) are at high risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19). This also includes people who live in group settings with many other people and share common rooms (such as aged care homes or boarding houses).

If you are an overseas traveller or a close contact, you must self-quarantine for 14 days. You can reduce your risk of getting the virus by protecting yourself and other people.

Who is most at risk of being very sick from coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Anybody can become very sick with coronavirus (COVID-19), even though most people will have only mild symptoms. And anybody can pass on coronavirus (COVID-19) to others who can become very sick and even die.

We do know that some groups of people are more likely to become very sick with coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • People who are older or elderly.

Because of their lower immune systems, older people are more likely to get very sick with coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • People who have pre-existing medical conditions.

Underlying illness make people more likely to become very sick with coronavirus (COVID-19), including those with diabetes, chronic lung disease, kidney failure and people with low or suppressed immune systems.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to become very sick with coronavirus (COVID-19) because of higher rates of pre-existing medical conditions.

Testing is available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who show symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) such as respiratory symptoms or fever. See more on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities links on this website.

If you are one of these groups of people, it is important that you continue to look after yourself and take your regular medications. Keep following advice and ask for help from your doctor, nurse or healthcare worker. 

The following pages provide more information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and other medical conditions: 

Our health services page has more information on who is in an at-risk group.

People living with HIV

There is no evidence so far to suggest that people living with HIV, who are on effective anti-retroviral therapies with undetectable viral loads, are at increased risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19) infection or developing severe disease. However, as HIV infection can result in suppression of the immune system and other comorbidities, people living with HIV should be considered a higher risk group than the general population. 

Read the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) factsheet for people living with HIV (Word) for more information.

What if I’m a smoker?

People who smoke are generally at higher risk of respiratory tract infections, like lung and chest infections. There is also evidence to suggest that e-cigarette use (or ‘vaping’) leads to a higher risk of respiratory tract infections.

Stopping smoking has many health benefits, even beyond a link with coronavirus (COVID-19), so it’s always a good time to quit. During this pandemic and as we head into the annual influenza season, quitting has never been more important.

You can find more information on smoking or ‘vaping’ and coronavirus (COVID-19) in this factsheet:

I am feeling unwell, what should I do?

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance and tell them if you also have a fever or a cough, sore throat or respiratory illness. 

If you begin to feel unwell, and have a fever or a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or respiratory illness you should get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Contact the 24-hour hotline 1800 675 398 or call your doctor and mention your symptoms and risk factors. They will determine if you need to be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Who can be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you have any of the symptoms, however mild, you should seek advice and get tested. To get further advice, call the 24-hour coronavirus hotline 1800 675 398, your general practitioner or use our online self-assessment tool.

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Fever
  • Chills or sweats
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste

In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be considered.

Where can I get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Visit the Getting tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) page for where you can get tested.

What if there are no clinics listed in my area?

If there is no clinic listed near you, contact your Doctor or local community health service for assistance. Make sure you phone ahead and discuss your symptoms before you visit in person.

How can I protect myself and others?

  • Stay at home. Don’t visit friends or family at this time.
  • Do not travel throughout Victoria unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay healthy with good nutrition, regular exercise and sleeping well.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol and for smokers, now is a great time to consider quitting. See more information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and smoking below.
  • Take the following hygiene actions:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the toilet. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
    • Do not share drink bottles, crockery or cutlery.
  • Stop shaking hands, hugging or kissing as a greeting.
  • Ensure a distance of at least 1.5 metres is kept between yourself and others.
  • Get vaccinated for flu (influenza). This will help reduce the strain on the healthcare system as it deals with coronavirus (COVID-19). Vaccines are now available from your GP and pharmacy.
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly e.g. phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches, bench tops.

How does coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

Health authorities around the world believe the virus is spread from close contact with an infected person, mostly through face-to-face interactions or between members of the same household and people we work closely with. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread by people with symptoms when they cough or sneeze. That’s why the best way to protect others is to practise physical distancing (keep at least 1.5 metres between yourself and others) and good personal hygiene (wash hands often and cough or sneeze into an elbow or tissue). 

People may also pick up coronavirus (COVID-19) from surfaces contaminated by a person with the infection. 

How do you define 'close contact'?

'Close contact' means having face-to-face contact for more than 15 minutes with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) – or alternatively sharing a closed space with them for more than two hours.

Close contact can happen in many ways, but examples include:

  • living in the same household or household-like setting (for example, a boarding school or hostel)
  • direct contact with the body fluids or laboratory specimens of a confirmed case 
  • being in the same room or office for two hours or more
  • face-to-face contact for more than 15 minutes in some other setting such as in a car or a lift or sitting next to them on public transport.

You can reduce your risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) by following these steps.

Does coronavirus (COVID-19) survive on surfaces?

Studies suggest that coronavirus (COVID-19) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant.

Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water often. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

What is the difference between coronavirus (COVID-19) and the flu?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and influenza (flu) are different viruses. Coronavirus (COVID-19) causes a more severe disease than seasonal influenza. Globally, about 3.4% of reported coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.

While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection. There is no vaccine available for coronavirus. The symptoms of the two illnesses can be similar because they both cause respiratory symptoms. You can prevent catching both by keeping at least 1.5 metres between yourself and others, reducing exposure, wash your hands often and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue. Read more ways you can slow the spread.

How do I protect myself against the flu?

  • Wash your hands often and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue. 
  • The flu shot is available at your local GP or community immunisation session. Many accredited pharmacies can also provide the flu shot, as well as advice about the virus. We suggest calling ahead to your local immunisation provider to ensure they have stock available and to book your appointment.

For more information about the flu shot, see Flu (influenza) – immunisation page on the Better Health Channel.

What is the treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19)?

There are currently no vaccines that protect against coronavirus (COVID-19).

In some patients who require oxygen therapy, dexamethasone (a corticosteroid) may be used to reduce the severity of illness. This treatment does not work for people who do not need oxygen and should only be used under the direction of a treating doctor. Other treatments may be used in a clinical trial setting. 

Early diagnosis, testing and general supportive care are important. 

How do we know people who have had coronavirus (COVID-19) are no longer infectious?

People with a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection stay in quarantine until they are no longer experiencing symptoms.

Before they are released from quarantine, their doctor or specialist care team assesses they are no longer infectious.

Once they are discharged, they have a follow up assessment by the medical team to make sure they remain well.

Can pets be infected with coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Cats, dogs and ferrets can contract coronavirus (COVID-19) if they have significant exposure to infected humans. Cats and ferrets may even become ill, but this is a very rare event. There is no evidence that domestic or wild animals can spread coronavirus (COVID-19) to humans.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads through close contact with an infected person; mostly face-to-face or within a household. 

There have been no reports of coronavirus (COVID-19) in domestic animals or wildlife in Australia.

If you are sick with coronavirus (COVID-19), you should minimise contact with animals and where possible you should arrange for someone else to mind your pets and care for livestock.

Remember, animals need to be looked after during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic too. For more information regarding domestic pets, see: Coronavirus (COVID-19): AVA updates. And for those in the farming and agricultural sector, see: Coronavirus (COVID-19) page in Agriculture Victoria website.

Who is required to self-quarantine and what does it involve?

See our advice on who should self-quarantine, how to prepare and how to support someone who is sick during a quarantine period on our self-quarantine webpage.

For information on how to cope while in self-quarantine take a look at our mental health resources

Emergency relief packages

For information on support and emergency relief packages for people in self-quarantine, visit self-quarantine webpage.

More information and resources

For content translated into community languages visit our translated resources page.

Self-isolation

These documents have been developed to support people who have been asked to self-isolate due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Information for public housing tenants and people at risk of or experiencing homelessness

This factsheet answers frequently asked questions for public housing tenants and people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Victorian renters

The Victorian Government has recently announced rent relief grants for Victorians experiencing rental hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The package provides a one-off grant to help Victorian renters maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation.

People with a disability and their carers

These factsheets include information and considerations specific to people with disability and people caring for them.

People experiencing family violence - or if you know someone experiencing family violence

Centrelink JobSeeker recipients

Are you receiving Centrelink's JobSeeker payment? If you have a Pensioner Concession Card or Health Care Card, read about your concession entitlements.

Workplace resources

Find out about your workplace entitlements and obligations on the Fair Work website if you're affected by the coronavirus disease.

Supporting children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic 

We have all been asked to do things differently in playing our part to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). For some families this has been challenging as this is also a time when children need more reassurance than usual and may have questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) – especially if they see coverage on the news or hear people talking about it. Some children may show their stress or even fear by behaving differently or in challenging ways. 

It's important you are reassuring and also listen to their concerns and answer their questions as best as you can. This is new territory for all parents, and everyone is learning as they go.  Expert advice can be helpful and we recommend that you access the Triple P Online program, which has resources specifically on parenting during coronavirus (COVID-19).  

This free online program includes information on how to talk to your children about questions they may have, the importance of sticking to normal routines and the importance of looking after yourself so that you can better care for your children. 

To access the program, visit Triple P Online program and select your child’s age range to register. You'll get an email giving you free access to the program for 12 months. You can go through all of the modules or just the session that’s relevant for you. 

The Victorian Department of Education website also has helpful information on talking to your child about coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to have a safe and reassuring conversation, as well as links to resources to help you and your family.