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Viruses are a common part of our lives. Virus symptoms are usually similar, and we can be struck down by one at least once a year. Once a family member falls ill, it is only a matter of time before it can spread to the other members of the household, making it feel like the sickness has gone on forever!

Each year, viruses evolve, and different strains circulate within the population, impacting child health significantly. Currently, the coronavirus is flooding our news. While we are still learning about the virus, it has been around in different strains for many years in animals, however this is the first strain that has infected humans. What we do know about this virus and other similar viruses, can help keep our children and families safe.

NOTE: If you have travelled overseas, been in contact with someone who has travelled overseas and/or suspect you may have the novel coronavirus please call the dedicated hotline on 1800 675 398 PRIOR to visiting a GP practice.

What is the coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies Coronavirus (CoV) as a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Click here for up to date information on the coronavirus from the Australian Department of Health.

What are the symptoms of the virus?

Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath, respiratory symptoms and breathing difficulties.

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Is the virus a cause for panic?

At the time of publishing this blog, there are 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, and every measure is being taken to limit the spread of the virus. It is important to stay informed and listen to the advice of health officials.

It is also very important to not panic if your child or family member gets a cough, a cold or a fever – or all three combined! It is far more likely to be the common cold, or the flu (influenza) than it is to be coronavirus.

Just for a bit of perspective, influenza infects many more people every year – in the millions worldwide. For 2019, there were a total of 310,011 laboratory confirmed cases in Australia, with 812 deaths that were notified to the NDSS.

People with existing health problems, weakened immune systems and older adults are at a higher risk of influenza, coronavirus and other common viruses.

When should I seek medical attention for virus symptoms?

Symptoms of a virus that need medical attention:

  • Severe cough that will not subside
  • A high fever that won’t come down with the aid of ibuprofen
  • Extreme fatigue and unusual sleepiness
  • Refusing to eat and drink – not going to the toilet for several hours and not having a wet nappy, and any signs of dehydration
  • Trouble breathing – sucking in around the ribs, rapid or heavy breathing

How you can reduce your chances of being infected by a virus:

  • Wash your hands! Use soap and water, and wash consistently for at least 20 seconds – or as long as it takes for your children to sing the alphabet song.
  • If you are out and don’t have access to a sink then ensure you have a bottle of sanitiser at the ready. Make sure you give your hands and in-between fingers a thorough rub.
  • Wash or sanitise hands before and after meals, after being around anyone who might be sick, after being in public places like parks, playgrounds and shopping centres and on public transport
  • Teach your kids not to touch their mouths, eyes, noses with their hands. Carry tissues or baby wipes for those sneezes and avoid hankies which are breeding grounds for bacteria.
  • Make sure your child has had the flu vaccine. The flu is far more common and bigger threat in Australia than the coronavirus.
  • Thoroughly cook meat and eggs
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

What to do if you have virus symptoms or suspect you have the novel coronavirus

 If your child does have a fever and cough don’t panic, trust your gut instinct and make an appointment with your GP if you do have concerns. If you are going to visit a GP practice please call up and inform reception beforehand that you are coming in and please wear a face mask.

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