Key points | What we know so far | Symptoms and symptom checker | Testing | Information lines | Latest news  | Australian Government resources | World Health Organization | Trusted news sites | Australian health sites | Other useful information | How we can help

Key points

  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, which means it affects the airways and lungs
  • Some people recover easily, others may get very sick very quickly
  • Staying up-to-date with factual information will help you lower your risk of becoming infected, or if you do become ill, how to get the best health outcomes
  • We’ll continue to update this page as more relevant information becomes available.

While it’s understandable that you may be worried about coronavirus COVID-19, and the impact it will have on yourself, your family and loved ones, it’s important that this worry is balanced with up-to-date, correct information about the virus.

There’s a lot of misinformation circulating about it, so we’ve created a place where we’ll put together all the best, authoritative information that we can find, especially when it relates to musculoskeletal conditions.

What we know so far

Let’s start with the name. We know it as coronavirus, but this is simply the type of virus it is.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). COVID-19 is the new kid on the block.

COVID-19 means COronaVIrus Disease 2019. Because it’s a new virus, we’re learning a lot about it as we go along, which can be scary and make us anxious.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, which means it affects the airways and lungs.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue
  • shortness of breath.

Some people who get COVID-19 recover easily, while others may get very sick very quickly.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones.”

Symptom checker

Healthdirect Australia has developed a COVID-19 Symptom Checker, an online self-guided tool to help you find out if you need to seek medical help.

The COVID-19 Symptom Checker includes questions about travel history, contact with known cases and the clinical symptoms associated with COVID-19, including fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath. It provides you with advice on what you should do next, such as calling ahead before a visit to a GP or emergency department.

Who is at risk?

People most at risk of getting the virus are those who have:

  • recently been to a high risk country or region or spent time on a cruise ship
  • been in close contact with someone who’s confirmed to have COVID-19.

People at higher risk of developing more serious health issues if they get the virus are:

  • elderly people
  • people with conditions that weaken or compromise the immune system
  • people with chronic conditions.

How is it spread?

We currently believe that it’s spread from person to person through:

  • direct close contact with someone who is contagious
  • contact with droplets from the cough or sneeze of someone who has the virus
  • touching surfaces or things (e.g. door handles, tables, phones) that someone with the virus has coughed on or sneezed on, and then touching your mouth or face.

Because close contact is required for the virus to pass from person to person, doing the following will help prevent it spreading:

  • wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water
  • cover your cough or sneeze, dispose of tissues and use an alcohol based sanitiser
  • if you’re unwell, avoid contact with other people.

The Australian Academy of Science has a short video explaining how COVID-19 is spread. Watch it now. 

What to do if you think you, or someone you care, for has COVID-19

Call your doctor. While you’re on the phone, tell them the symptoms, travel history and if you (or your family member) has been in close contact with someone who has the virus.

They will give you more information about what to do from there.

The Department of Health has also developed a guide to help you understand what happens if you have a suspected case of COVID-19.


Generally you’ll be tested for COVID-19 if you develop fever or respiratory symptoms and you:

  • have returned from overseas in the past 14 days
  • have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days
  • have travelled on a cruise ship (either passenger or crew) in the 14 days before developing symptoms
  • are a health care, aged care or residential care worker
  • have lived in an area where there is a higher risk of community transmission.

Some states and territories in Australia have expanded this list to include other people. Read Who can get tested for coronavirus (The Conversation, 2 April 2020) for more information.

How is it treated?

There’s no specific treatment for COVID-19. Antibiotics don’t have any effect on the virus. Treatment involves managing your symptoms – for example rest, pain relief, staying hydrated. This will depend on your unique situation. Your doctor will give you more information about this.

Importantly, if you do have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 immediately.

It is also recommended that you get the annual flu vaccination when it becomes available (April 2020). Talk with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

More to explore about COVID-19

We’ve pulled together the following information from several sources that provide the facts. We’ll continue to update this page as new information and facts emerge.

Information lines

Coronavirus Health Information Line
Call this line if you’re seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 020 080.

MSK Help Line
Call our nurses for information about your musculoskeletal condition, treatments and things to do to look after yourself. It operates weekdays 9am to 5pm. Call 1800 263 265 or can email and our nurses will get back to you as soon as possible on the next business day.


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How we can help

Call our MSK Help Line and speak to our nurses. Phone 1800 263 265 or email

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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