In simple terms, that means the patients had not travelled overseas to one of COVID-19’s known hotspots, and therefore likely contracted it from someone in Australia who had.
It’s a common pattern emerging around the world.
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Since the disease was first reported in China’s Hubei Province in late December 2019, it’s been detected in a further 73 countries. South Korea, Iran and Italy, for example, have emerged as international hotspots with 9,184 cases between them.
In fact, the virus is now spreading at a faster rate outside China than it is within. In the 24 hours to Tuesday, China reported just 129 new cases: its lowest number since January 20.
This is good news. It’s evidence that the spread of COVID-19 can be slowed and eventually contained with the right response.
And here, that starts with you.
So let’s take a look at what scientists understand about how COVID-19 spreads among the community, and what you can do to help prevent it.
How COVID-19 spreads.
COVID-19 is transmitted via small droplets of fluid from the nose and mouth of someone who is sick.
As the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday, despite the comparisons to the flu, COVID-19 actually spreads far less efficiently.
While influenza sufferers can transmit the virus before they become ill, evidence from China indicates that only 1 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases don’t have symptoms. And most of those cases develop symptoms within two days.
These are the main ways a sick person’s viral droplets will spread.
Coughing, sneezing, breathing.
COVID-19 can be spread by a sick person coughing or sneezing in the presence of others.
How to prevent infection: The World Health Organisation advises people to remain at least one metre away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing to avoid breathing in viral droplets.
Some people are using medical face masks for this purpose, however, the WHO has stressed that there is “no evidence that they protect people who are not sick”. Especially when used without other strict preventative measures.
Dr Sanjaya Senanayake, Associate Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases Physician at the Australian National University, reiterated this point when speaking to Mamamia‘s daily news podcast, The Quicky.
“There are two situations where a mask will help,” he said. “In the hospital setting, if you’re a healthcare worker seeing a person with COVID-19 and you’re wearing your personal protective equipment; And if we’re having a wider outbreak in Australia and you’re looking after someone at home with Novel coronavirus, then wearing a mask will help. But generally wearing it in the wider community when you’re going outside won’t be that helpful.”