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

I didn’t think I had COVID. I didn’t feel unwell, I felt like I was breathing normally. Because I was so badly infected, they had to get me on the ventilator fairly quickly. I was in the ICU for 32 days.

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

The symptoms to watch out for are: 

  • fever 
  • chills or sweats 
  • cough 
  • sore throat 
  • shortness of breath 
  • runny nose 
  • loss or change in sense of smell or taste. 

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. 

If you have any of these symptoms, however mild, you should seek advice and get tested. To get further advice, call the 24-hour coronavirus hotline 1800 675 398 or your doctor. 

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 promptly see your doctor and get 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 who has the virus. We know that some people are at higher risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19) because of where they have been and where they live. 

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

If you are a close contact, you must 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 becoming very sick from coronavirus (COVID-19)? 

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

We know that certain people are more likely to become very sick with coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Older people 

  • Older people are more likely to get very sick with coronavirus (COVID-19) because immune systems become less effective with age. 

People with pre-existing medical conditions 

  • Having an underlying illness makes 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) due to higher rates of pre-existing medical conditions. Find more information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on this website. 

If any of these apply to you, it is important that you continue to look after yourself and take any 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) or developing severe disease. However, as HIV infection can result in suppression of the immune system and other comorbidities, people living with HIV are 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 (vaping) leads to a higher risk of respiratory tract infections. Quitting smoking has never been more important, as coronavirus (COVID-19) causes respiratory illness, and in some cases breathing difficulties and pneumonia. 

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)? 

Anyone who has any of the below symptoms, however mild, should get tested. For advice, call the 24-hour coronavirus hotline 1800 675 398 or your doctor. 

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

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Testing is free for everyone regardless of visa status, residency or Medicare coverage. 

From time-to-time people may get tested due to high-risk industry surveillance or outbreaks, even if they do not have any symptoms. 

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

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

What if there are no clinics listed in my area? 

If there is no clinics listed near you, contact your doctor or local community health service or the 24-hour hotline 1800 675 398  for assistance. Make sure you phone ahead and discuss your symptoms before you visit in person. 

How can I protect myself and others? 

  • Follow the restrictions and the COVIDSafe rules to stay safe.  
  • Stay healthy with good nutrition, sleep and regular exercise. 
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol. 
  • Consider quitting if you’re a smoker. See more information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and smoking below. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 
  • 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. 
  • Get tested if you feel unwell. 
  • Keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres 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 doctor and pharmacy. 
  • Continue to clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly such as phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches, bench tops. 

How does coronavirus (COVID-19) spread? 

As coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus, new research is emerging from scientists regularly. Health authorities around the world believe the virus is spread from close contact with an infected person, mostly through face-to-face interactions; between members of the same household or people who work together closely.  

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread by infected people when they cough or sneeze. People may also pick up coronavirus (COVID-19) from surfaces contaminated by a person with the virus. This information may change as more research emerges and we learn more about coronavirus (COVID-19).  

The best way to protect yourself is to keep at least 1.5 metres apart, and practise good personal hygiene such as regular hand washing and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue.  

For more information about the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) visit the What do we know about coronavirus page. 

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. For example: 

  • 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 live 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 sanitiser or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 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, two to four per cent of reported coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than one per cent of those infected. For more information visit the What do we know about coronavirus page.  

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

Scientists around the world are working as quickly as possible to find a vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19). While there are currently no vaccines available that protect against coronavirus (COVID-19), there’s lots of media around the currently leading vaccines in development. The Australian Government has signed supply agreements with manufacturers of four vaccines currently in clinical trials. 

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 case of coronavirus (COVID-19) must isolate for a minimum of 10 days, however this depends on several factors including how sick you have been, when your symptoms resolve and whether you needed to go to hospital. The Department of Health and Human Services will issue people with clearance once they have recovered.   

For more information visit the What do we know about coronavirus page.

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

It has been reported overseas that cats, dogs and ferrets can contract coronavirus (COVID-19) if they have significant exposure to infected humans. For more information visit the What do we know about coronavirus page. 

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. For those in the farming and agricultural sector, see: Coronavirus (COVID-19) page in Agriculture Victoria website. 

Who is required to quarantine and what does it involve? 

There are certain circumstances that require someone to quarantine. This includes returning from international travel, or when you are waiting on a test result for coronavirus (COVID-19) or you are a close contact of someone who has a confirmed case of the virus.  

When quarantining you must go straight home and stay at home, except to seek medical care or in an emergency (including if you are experiencing family violence). More information is available on who must quarantine and if you are identified as a close contact

If you are returning to Victoria from overseas, please visit Mandatory quarantine for returned overseas travellers on the coronavirus website for more specific information about what is required. 

Information is available on the support for when you isolate or quarantine and to support your mental health.

Who is required to isolate and what does it involve? 

You must isolate when you have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). This means you are a confirmed case. You must go straight home and stay at home except to seek medical care or in an emergency (including if you are experiencing family violence). More information is available: 

Information is available on the support for when you isolate or quarantine and to support your mental health