COVID-19 is now described as a global pandemic – not because it has become more deadly, but because of its global spread. It is believed to be spread by ‘respiratory droplets’ from an infected person – tiny secretions released when we sneeze or cough. The virus may only take 15 minutes to pass from one person to another so you’re at risk of catching it if you spend 15 minutes in close contact, such as in face-to-face conversation, or two hours in the same confined space with an infected person (including in the 24 hours before they started showing symptoms) Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick, very quickly. Prevention Strategies In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 large, non-essential gatherings have now been banned across Australia. Additionally, people must self-isolate for 14 days if they: Have arrived from overseas, orMight have been in contact with a person confirmed with COVID-19. Ten Steps to Protect Yourself: Cough and sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue.Dispose of tissues properly.Wash your hands often, for 20–30 seconds, with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet. Dry your hands with a clean town or a single-use towel. Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.Clean and disinfect surfaces.Stay at home when you are unwell.Avoid travelling and large public gatherings if they’re not essential.Keep a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people whenever possible.Minimise physical contact, especially with people at higher risk such as older people and people with existing health conditions. Surgical masks If you have coronavirus disease, a surgical mask will help prevent it from spreading to others. A surgical mask is not necessary if you are well. Treatment There is currently no effective vaccination for COVID-19 although an international effort is underway to develop one. You should get your flu shot when it’s available as getting both flu and COVID-19 at the same time can make you very ill. More information If you develop symptoms – fever, cough and difficulty breathing – contact your GP or emergency department.Your doctor will tell you if you should be tested and they will arrange for the test.Do not arrive at your local GP or hospital without calling ahead first.If you are confirmed with COVID-19, you must self-isolate to prevent it from spreading to other people.For more information on COVID-19, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week: (AUS) 1800 020 080.