As a health organisation, ACON has been keeping up to date with the latest advice and public health measures being taken as this pandemic evolves.
We are confident that many members of our communities are also keeping themselves informed, and we would encourage everyone to keep up to date with factual messages to ensure we can act collectively to reduce transmission, and that we understand what to do.
To assist our communities, we are offering some additional advice to assist with informed decision making based on your personal circumstances.
The time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically 5 to 6 days, although this may range from 2 to 14 days. For this reason, people who have been in contact with a confirmed case should self-isolate for 14 days.
Currently, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is believed to be highest for those people who have travelled overseas and there are an increasing number of countries with a high number of cases. We understand that as of early hours of 16 March (from midnight tonight), all Australian Governments have agreed to implement a policy of universal self-isolation for people who have returned to Australia from anywhere overseas for 14 days.
In addition to self-isolation for travellers, social distancing measures are recommended. NSW Health indicates that this means “separating yourself from other people as much as possible when you’re in public places, and avoiding crowded places. Practically, you should:
- attempt to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and others
- avoid crowds and mass gatherings where it is difficult to keep the appropriate distance away from others
- avoid small gatherings in enclosed spaces, for example family celebrations
- avoid shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people
- avoid visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment.”
Coronavirus is spread through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects. Those most at risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) include people who have travelled overseas in the past 14 days. People who have underlying illnesses and a vulnerability to respiratory illness, older people, and people with suppressed immune systems are also at higher risk. It is important to note that the great majority of people living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load are not considered to have a supressed immune system.
Each of us need to take into account our own personal circumstances, social and other contact with people, and assess our risk. ACON’s advice for our communities is that each of us look at the best medical advice, and apply it to our own lives and circumstances.
Clearly, in some cases, close personal contact with others, especially in a crowded situation, can involve risk. It may be important for people to limit their contact with others, especially where that contact involves touching, kissing and other interactions that might increase the risk of infection. While not explicitly a sexually transmitted infection, physical intimacy with people carries an elevated risk of transmission.
As a community, we understand the need for good communication around health, including sexual health, and in this circumstance, taking precautions to ensure we reduce risks is important for both our own health, but also the health of the broader community.
Aside from mass gatherings, at the current time, no restrictions have been placed on activities such as attending the gym, workplace or university. However if you do attend such places, strong and persistent attention to hygiene, especially hand hygiene, is important. This is also the case if you are attending your local hotel or restaurant. In addition, you may want to reconsider whether you attend a bar or other gatherings in enclosed spaces, depending on your health circumstances and the nature of the interactions.
If you have a cold or flu-like symptoms you should avoid close contact with others. If you develop a fever, sore throat, a dry cough or any of the known symptoms, visit the website to understand what you can do, including calling your doctor or healthdirect on 1800 022 222. When you call, tell them if / where you have travelled, or if your symptoms are severe, visit your local Emergency Department. When you arrive, immediately tell staff if/where you have travelled.
Good advice is available on the NSW Health website and this site will have updates as they come to hand. ACON will also continue to provide additional advice for those living with HIV, along with our clinical and other community partners. Given how quickly the circumstances are evolving, we suggest you visit this site frequently to ensure you are up to date. Social media may not always be the best source of advice, so make sure you are getting your information from a credible source.
It is most important that we stay informed, don’t panic and take decisions that are good for your health and our communities’ health. We know how to look after ourselves and each other, and now is an important time for that.
ACON Media and Communications Manager
0400 358 109