Travel Health Nurse and Immunisations Nurse Practitioner Catherine Keil explains Coronavirus

Travel health nurse Catherine Keil, based in the Barossa.

Travel health nurse Catherine Keil, based in the Barossa.

Like any other virus - listen to health professionals, remain updated with facts and maintain good hygiene practices, a Barossa based health professional advises.

Travel Health Nurse and Immunisations Nurse Practitioner Catherine Keil's advice falls in the wake of the Coronavirus epidemic, first announced in China this year.

Her 20-year work history as a travel health nurse has led her to provide detailed facts to assist community members who may have concerns.

"Data and information about the illness is changing constantly, yet we need to keep on it," she said from her Angaston Medical Centre based clinic.

She referred to the best guides as the Department of Health Australia and Smart Traveller.

For any overseas visits she recommends people to continue to travel but to take out travel insurance in case of cancellations.

In generic terms, Mrs Keil points to the SARS epidemic and Ebola as more recent worse medical illness cases in history - referring to the Coronavirus mortality rate as "low".

"China is seeing a rate of two to three per cent of deaths, which is low when compared with SARS which was about eight per cent," she said.

"If we get two million people with the disease then it would be considered a pandemic."

While it's still unclear which animal resulted in the illnesses outbreak, Mrs Keil said many diseases are linked with animals due to areas becoming more and more suburbanised.

The former Emirates immunisations nurse continues to urge all her patients to avoid eating raw meats when working or holidaying overseas.

She always encourages continued hand washing, the use of hand sanitisers and sticking to foods that are either cooked and fruit that can have its skin removed.

"It's just good practises to avoid the potential risk of getting sick," she explained.

Those at risk of the virus are people, generally the elderly, with respiratory illnesses and chronic medical conditions.

However, she refers to the great border security in Australia and that fact the flu season doesn't generally hit Australia until April.

While Ms Keil had not yet seen patients regarding trips to China, a large core of her work does involve Barossa residents heading to China annually, especially winemakers who travel for business.

"Masks are not recommended unless you have been diagnosed or have symptoms. If that's the case use the n95 masks," she said

Meanwhile, people who have travelled to China recently and believe they present symptoms are urged to immediately phone their GP to discuss.

"Ring ahead of time so your doctor is aware of your symptoms and travel history to ensure you are quarantined if required," she said.

Novel Coronavirus - Information for travellers

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

2019-nCoV is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.

Initial human infections of the novel type of coronaviruses were acquired from exposure to animals at the live animal market in Wuhan.

However, on January 20, 2020 Chinese authorities confirmed that the novel coronavirus is spreading person-to-person, with medical workers in Wuhan confirmed to have contracted the disease from cases they had been treating.

How easily the virus spreads from person-to-person remains unknown. Much remains to be understood about the new coronavirus.

Is Australia at risk?

Australia has excellent public health laboratory capacity to test for and identify the novel coronavirus, and strong public health systems in place when a case is identified in Australia.

The World Health Organization is closely monitoring the situation and is in regular contact with Chinese authorities to provide support required. The Department of Health is also in contact with the World Health Organization.

What are the symptoms of 2019-nCoV?

The virus can cause a range of symptoms, from ranging from mild illness to pneumonia. People may experience:

  • Fever
  • Flu like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and headaches
  • Difficult breathing in some cases

How is 2019-nCoV treated?

There is no specific treatment for people who are sick with coronavirus. Treatment includes isolation as a precaution, and supportive medical care for those who experience symptoms.

Travel to China

Smartraveller (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) announced on January 28:

"Due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus we now advise you 'reconsider your need to travel' to China overall and 'do not travel' to Hubei Province. Chinese authorities have restricted travel for parts of the country and may extend these restrictions at short notice. Travellers may be quarantined, due to their health condition or previous location."

What should I do if I become unwell with 2019-nCoV symptoms when returning to Australia from travel in areas known to have an outbreak or animals who may carry 2019-nCoV?

If you feel sick after travelling to China, you should see a doctor as a precaution, and advise them of your travel history. Ring ahead of time so your doctor is aware of your symptoms and travel history to ensure you are quarantined if required.

All travellers should practice hygiene and self-protection measures for acute respiratory infections, such as washing hands and covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing.