Feb 03, 2020

Government warns aged care facilities to be on alert for coronavirus


The government has advised families and friends not to visit residential aged care facilities if they have visited China or come into contact with someone who is infected with coronavirus in the last 14 days.

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in late December 2019. Since then, authorities around the world have been struggling to keep pace with the highly contagious illness and restrict its spread. 

Guidelines released on the weekend by the Department of Health urge anyone who has been to China or come into contact with the virus to avoid aged care facilities, where elderly residents are particularly susceptible to the disease.

The guidance says any aged care residents who have travelled to mainland China within the past 14 days will be isolated for 14 days after leaving China. 

Residents of residential care who have been in close contact with a case of novel coronavirus within the past 14 days will also be isolated for 14 days after their last contact with the case.

The contagious period for the disease is said to be 14 days.

Isolated in a single room for 14 days

“If you need to be isolated, you will be placed in a single room and will not be able to engage with other residents or receive visitors,” the guidance says.

“You will be monitored closely for symptoms of the virus and, if you become unwell, you will undergo further assessment and testing. 

“Health care and residential care workers will continue to provide support and care while you are isolated,” the guidance states.

“If you need to leave your room, such as to seek medical care, you will be asked to wear a mask.”

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses was first seen in mainland China. It is called ‘novel’ because it has not been detected before this outbreak. 

Most people currently infected live in or have travelled recently to mainland China. 

It is likely that the virus originally came from an animal, and there is now evidence that it can spread from person to person. 

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath. 

Some people who are infected with the coronavirus may not experience any symptoms, some will get mild symptoms and will recover easily, while others may become “very ill, very quickly”.
Those at most risk of the illness are:

  • elderly people;
  • people with compromised immune systems;
  • very young children and babies;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; and
  • people with diagnosed heart and lung conditions.

How to prevent the spread of coronavirus

The best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus are to:

  • Practise good hand hygiene
  • Practise good sneeze/cough hygiene
  • Encourage all residents and visiting family members to:
    • wash their hands often with soap and water before and after eating as well as after attending the toilet; 
    • avoid contact with others by keeping family members, including children, at home if they are unwell; and
    • cough and sneeze into their elbow.

Want more information? 

You can access all the government’s guidelines regarding coronavirus here.

Visit the Australian Government Department of Health homepage.

Call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

Discuss any questions you have with the Public Health Agency monitoring you.

Contact your state or territory public health agency:

  • ACT call 02 5124 9213
  • NSW call 1300 066 055
  • NT call 08 8922 8044
  • Qld call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
  • SA call 1300 232 272
  • Tas call 1800 671 738
  • Vic call 1300 651 160
  • WA call 08 9328 0553

Image: Branislav, iStock. Model is posed, stock image.

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