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What To Do If You Think You Have Coronavirus

As Australia confirms its fifth case of coronavirus, an expert says there's "no need to panic" and that the deadly infection poses a very small risk to Australians.

The highly-infectious virus is able to spread through human contact and its symptoms include high fever, coughing, tiredness and shortness of breath.

Raina MacIntyre, a Professor of Global Biosecurity at the University of New South Wales, told 10 daily people should avoid travelling to China, but that there's no cause for concern for those living in Australia.

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"At the moment there's only five confirmed cases in Australia and they're all in isolation, so I don't think it's going to be much use to wear a face mask," she  said.

Those at the greatest risk of contracting the virus are those currently in Wuhan, MacIntyre said.

The virus has killed more than 100 people in China. Image: Getty

"If people have travelled to China and come back and developed symptoms they should contact their local health unit and they can then be tested and assessed to see if they have the infection," she said.

The coronavirus is believed to have originated in a food market in Chinese city Wuhan -- with some scientists linking it to "bat soup".

"Bats are notorious for carrying all kinds of viruses in different countries. Bats harbour Ebola in Africa and in China, the SARS virus," McIntyre said.

People wearing masks in Beijing while coronavirus spreads. Image: AP

Although more than 100 people have died from the coronavirus, the fatality rate is only between two and five percent, MacIntyre said.

Those who contract the virus can be given "supportive care" to manage the infection.

"The infection can cause severe pneumonia and so just getting oxygen through a mask can help you survive," she said.

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What To Do If You Think You Have Coronavirus

The federal Department of Health has a website dedicated to coronavirus, detailing what people should do if they think they have the infection, or if they've come into contact with someone who has.

"Symptoms can include (but are not limited to) fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, and/or shortness of breath," the website said.

The department advised that if someone thinks they may have contracted the virus, developing a fever, sweats, or chills, that they should:

  • Call a doctor or a hospital and inform them that you are a contact of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus;
  • Put on a mask if you have one for if you need to leave the house;
  • When you arrive at the doctor’s surgery or hospital, tell them again that you are a contact of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus.

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The health department said if cases are serious enough, people may be isolated in hospital. But if a doctor says people can return home while waiting for test results, people are advised to:

  • remain in your home and do not attend work or school;
  • wash your hands often with soap and water;
  • cough and sneeze into your elbow;
  • avoid cooking for or caring for other members of your household; and
  • wear a mask (provided by your doctor) if close contact with other people is unavoidable.

MacIntyre said although there is a possibility that more cases will be confirmed in Australia, the country is well-equipped to deal with the infection.

"If they're in Wuhan or Hubei, they should avoid crowded places and hospitals if they can and wear a face mask or some protection," MacIntyre told 10 daily.

"There's also concerns about whether those in lockdown have adequate food, medication and other essential supplies," she said.

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The Australian government is preparing to evacuate citizens living in China and bring them home, claiming Australia is "incredibly well-prepared" to deal with more cases of the deadly virus.

There is no vaccine for coronavirus, although researchers at the University of Queensland are currently working to create one.

It'll take as few as 16 weeks to created a vaccine for the new virus strain, a senior research fellow at UQ told ABC.

"We've built this technology specifically for this type of response, so we're quite confident we can actually target this type of pathogen," Dr Daniel Watterson said.

"We're really under the pump now to see whether we can deliver, but we've already begun the initial stages which involves getting the DNA sequence and putting it into cells to produce the protein."

Contact Eden at egillespie@networkten.com.au