PEOPLE should assume they will be infected with COVID-19, and act to slow the spread to protect each other, Dr Lee Fong says.
The secretary of the Hunter GP Association, and senior clinical director of Hunter Primary Care, said more people were now getting COVID-19 in the community, and more would get it.
"But we can slow it down and help protect each other if we work together on this," Dr Fong said.
"Around 20-to-50 per cent of us will get COVID-19 at sometime over the next few months."
He said the main symptoms were a fever, which would affect about nine-in-10 of cases; A cough - which would affect seven-in-10; feeling short of breath - two-in-10; and a sore throat - one-in-10.
"Having a runny nose is quite rare - one-in-20," he sad.
"Perhaps we need to focus less on if we are going to get a dose of COVID-19. Let's just assume we will get a dose of CORVID-19. What then?"
Dr Fong said four-in-five people would have a mild-to-moderate illness.
"It will just feel like having a cold, or maybe a bad flu - and can be managed safely at home," he said.
"We just need to wait until we get better, and slow the spread to others, by isolating ourselves for 14 days.
"If we need some reassurance, we can check for more information at healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus, ring the national Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, or call your GP."
Dr Fong said one-in-six people would have "severe illness" from COVID-19.
"Those people are not going to feel well at all, and will probably be unwell enough that we need to go to hospital to get supportive treatment, like oxygen, until our body fights off the infection," he said.
"If you're worried this might be happening to you, you can check the online symptom check at healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus, ring HealthDirect on 1800 022 222, call your GP, or if you're feeling very unwell, call an ambulance."
Dr Fong said one-in-20 people would have "very severe" illness from COVID-19.
"Those people are going to feel super unwell, and will probably need extra support, like in an intensive care unit, until our body fights off the infection," he said.
"That sounds like a bit of a worry. But let's put that in perspective, and see how the risk is different in different age groups."
Dr Fong said in China, the risk of dying if you got COVID-19 was:
- No risk for people under the age of 10.
- From 10-39, about 1 in 500 (which is about twice as bad as a bad seasonal flu)
- From 40-49, about 1 in 250
- From 50-59, about 1 in 75
- From 60-69, about 1 in 25
- From 70-79, about 1 in 13
- Above 80, about 1 in 6
"It's very clear that the younger you are, the less risk you have. That is great for our kids," Dr Fong said.
"It is also very clear that the older you are, the more risk you have.
"So if you are older, and especially if you have other illnesses, you do need to be very careful. For the rest of us, we need to be careful as well, because we don't want to be the one-in-five who gets very unwell - but also because we want to reduce the risk for the more vulnerable, like the elderly, and those who have other illnesses."
Dr Fong said if we all assumed we would get COVID-19 at some time in the next few months, we would need to slow the spread to ensure we did not all get sick at the same time.
"If we all get sick at the same time, one-in-six of us may need a hospital bed, and one-in-20 of us may need an intensive care bed. And that is not going to end well," he said.
"What we need to do is slow down the spread - so when any of us needs a hospital bed, or an ICU bed, there is one right there, waiting for us.
"That way, as many of us as possible will get the right care to get through this thing."
Dr Fong said COVID-19 was spread by "droplets", and droplets were spread by close contact between people.
"During close contact, droplets can spread from hand to hand, then from hand to face. Or droplets can spread when somebody coughs or sneezes on another person. So we need to try to reduce how many droplets we spread to each other."
Dr Fong's guide to stopping the spread:
- If you are sick with a fever, cough, sore throat, or runny nose, you should stay at home for 14 days.
- If you need to sneeze or cough, catch those droplets in a tissue, or an elbow.
- Reduce the chance of either getting or spreading droplets by practicing 'social distancing'.
- Stop those droplets from getting into our body, by avoiding touching our face.
- Get those droplets off our phones by cleaning it frequently with 70 per cent alcohol
- Get those droplets off our hands by washing frequently and well with soap and water, or hand sanitiser
- Avoid crowds
- Avoid small gatherings in enclose spaces
- Try to keep 1.5m between ourselves and others where possible
- Avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing other people
- Avoid visiting vulnerable people, like those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or those with lowered immunity due to illness or medical treatments
- The less droplets we've been exposed to, the less sick we will be, and the faster we'll get better.
- We can still take a walk, go for a hike, work in the yard, go for a drive, buy groceries, get some take-away, play tennis in the park, check on your friends, and check on your elderly neighbour
"If we stop the droplets, we'll slow the spread. If we slow the spread, the hospitals beds will be available. If the hospital beds are available, then much less of us will die, and many more of us will get better," Dr Fong said.
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