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Updated coronavirus information for GPs


Matt Woodley


22/01/2020 4:00:16 PM

GPs and other health professionals have been given advice to help identify any cases of the virus and apply infection control measures to prevent its spread.

People at airport
Heightened human biosecurity measures will include private interviews with travellers from Wuhan who are unwell. (Image: AAP)

In addition to issuing precautionary advice, NSW Health has made novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) a notifiable disease under the Public Health Act, meaning doctors and laboratories must report any suspected cases.
 
GPs have been asked to collect nasopharyngeal, nasal, and throat swabs from suspected cases, and undertake testing for alternative causes as soon as possible, in particular for respiratory viruses using multiplex PCR [polymerase chain reaction] if available.
 
Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Director of Health Protection at NSW Health, said advice is also being provided to travellers who may have already returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, as it can take up two weeks for symptoms to develop.
 
‘Symptoms of the virus include a fever with respiratory symptoms such as a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath,’ Dr McAnulty said.
 
‘There is no need for alarm, but people should be aware of the emerging situation and if they develop symptoms on returning from affected areas overseas, they should call ahead before seeing their GP.
 
‘This virus does not appear to spread easily between people, but anyone with symptoms should practise simple hygiene by covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow and washing their hands thoroughly.’
 
Nine people have so far died as a result of the virus, leading Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to ramp up screenings at Australian airports of any travellers returning from the affected Wuhan area in China.
 
‘A number of people have been tested in Australia and found to be negative,’ Minister Hunt told Sky News.
 
The heightened human biosecurity measures will include private interviews with travellers who are unwell in restricted security controlled areas of Sydney airport.
 
Minister Hunt said Australia receives three flights from Wuhan per week and they would be monitored closely. 
 
‘[Flights] will be met by biosecurity officers, information [will be] given to passengers, and the biosecurity officers will be accompanied by health officers,’ Mr Hunt told the ABC.
 
‘They do have the capacity because of the measures taken to bring people directly to hospital if that were required.
 
‘But we expect that any passengers that do have issues will self-report because it’s in their own interests, but if not, then there are strong powers.’
 
Despite Minister Hunt’s assurances, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon believes biosecurity screening should be expanded to cover all passengers on flights from China, not just Wuhan.
 
‘It would be a relatively low cost and prudent thing for the Government to do to reassure everyone that this was being contained as much as possible,’ he said.
 
‘There are more than 160 flights that land in Australia from China each week and potentially any of them could be carrying passengers exposed to the virus.
 
‘The problem is that there are all these weird and wonderful different ways that people get from one place to another when it comes to international travel.’
 
No cases have been confirmed in Australia but the virus has now spread to five countries, with the number of people affected quadrupling in the past four days. The number of cases reported in China has reached 440.
 
The US has joined China, Thailand, Japan and South Korea on the list of countries with a confirmed case. According to the US Center for Disease Control, a man in his 30s is being treated in Seattle following a trip to the Wuhan area.
 
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy has said the risk of a large-scale outbreak is low, but admits there is ‘no way of preventing this getting into the country if this becomes bigger’.
 
One of China’s top health experts has also warned that ‘super-spreaders’ could escalate the impact of the virus, telling the South China Morning Post one patient alone had spread the disease to 14 medical workers.
 
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Dr Juanita Susan Ruiz   23/01/2020 7:14:01 AM

Is there not a ten day incubation period? How do we prevent these people spreading the virus?


Dr Peter James Strickland   23/01/2020 5:02:43 PM

Everyone coming from ALL the countries involved in this infection should be screened. In the 1970s I put all service personnel in the Navy and Army on prophylactic treatment for malaria prevention when a case of cerebral malaria was found outside Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin, and we had the anopheles mosquito in that city with a flight range of about 1 km. The Health Dept did nothing and were criticised from Canberra.
COVER ALL CONTINGENCIES is my advice, and in this case ALL passengers coming from China, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand etc should be watched, i.e coming from where this coronavirus is now, and travelling into Australia. Incubation period is a worry, and cases could arrive here well, and later develop the SARS-like syndrome. If they do, who is responsible?


Dr Xiong Tan   24/01/2020 11:20:48 PM

"GPs have been asked to collect nasopharyngeal, nasal, and throat swabs from suspected cases, and undertake testing for alternative causes as soon as possible, in particular for respiratory viruses using multiplex PCR [polymerase chain reaction] if available."

This is misleading: GPs NEED to call DHS before sending in the swab for novel coronavirus PCR.

So far NONE of GPs receipt ANY update / instruction from RACGP / DHS regarding this novel coronavirus PCR. We have to google for all update.