COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new form of coronavirus, first reported in December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. These can range from the common cold to more serious diseases.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Most people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly. People with coronavirus may experience symptoms such as:
- respiratory symptoms,
- sore throat,
- shortness of breath.
Other symptoms can include runny nose, acute blocked nose (congestion), headache, muscle or joint pains, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of sense of smell, altered sense of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Experts are still learning about the delta variant but the symptoms seem to be a bit different with headache, sore throat, runny nose and fever to be the most common.
How COVID-19 Spreads
The virus can spread from person to person through:
- close contact with an infectious person (including in the 48 hours before they had symptoms)
- contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face.
Current evidence suggests that the most likely spread is from respiratory droplets between people from close contact with each other.
People are believed to be most infectious two days before they start showing symptoms. However even if people do not show any symptoms, they can still spread the virus to other people.
Experts say that the delta variant spreads more easily because of mutations that make it better at latching onto cells in our bodies.
Most people will recover from Covid 19 within a few weeks however 1 in 6 may experience complications. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions e.g., heart disease or diabetes may be more likely to develop a more serious illness.
What causes Covid 19 complications?
Covid 19 complications may be caused by a cytokine storm. Cytokines are inflammatory proteins that can flood the bloodstream after an infection like COVID 19 triggers the immune system. The large influx of cytokines can cause damage to many organs of the body like the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
The most common complications are of the lungs and respiratory system, they are:
- Acute Respiratory Failure: a serious condition when the lungs can’t get enough oxygen to the rest of the body and there is a build-up of carbon dioxide causing damage to other organs of the body
- Pneumonia: an infection that affects one or both lungs. The air sacs in the lungs become inflamed making it harder to breathe. This type of pneumonia may cause scar tissue and long-term damage to the lungs
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome: the lungs become so severely damaged that fluid flows into them which inhibits the body getting oxygen into the bloodstream
The other complications may be:
- Acute liver injury: when the liver suddenly stops working
- Acute cardiac injury: damage to the heart
- Secondary infection: when the body develops another infection unrelated to Covid-19 e.g., a bacterial infection like Strep or Staph
- Acute kidney injury: an abrupt decrease in kidney function
- Septic shock: a life-threatening condition when the blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level after an infection
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation: the body doesn’t clot properly, forming abnormal clots which can lead to internal bleeding and organ failure
- Blood clots: clumping of blood cells in the blood vessels
- Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children: some organs in the body become severely inflamed. Symptoms include fever, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, rash and confusion
- Chronic fatigue: Symptoms may include brain fog, severe fatigue, pain, trouble thinking or dizziness
- Rhabdomyolysis: muscles break down and tissues die. As the cells break, a protein is released into the bloodstream which if the kidneys can’t clear, it could be fatal
- Damage to the brain: Even in young people, COVID-19 can cause strokes and Guillain barre syndrome which is a condition where the immune system attacks the nerves and can cause paralysis. COVID-19 may also increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
- Dermatologic: Rash
- Neurologic: Loss of taste, smell and sleep disturbance
- Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood
People with severe symptoms may be hospitalised and treated in the Intensive Care Unit with mechanical devices such as ventilators. Surviving these experiences can make them more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
1. Post-COVID conditions: Information for healthcare providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-care/post-covid-conditions.html. Accessed 4Jul2021
2. Post-COVID-19 conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html. Accessed 4Jul2021
There are several things you can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as;
- Practise good hygiene, wash your hands, keep home and workplaces clean and covering your mouth when you cough
- Social Distancing, keeping at least 1.5 metres away from other people in the home and public areas even if they are not showing symptoms
- Masks: wear masks if you are in an area where physical distancing is not possible. Make sure the mask covers your nose and your mouth
- Quarantine, if you have been in contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19, if you have returned to Australia from overseas, or if travelling interstate which requires a quarantine period. You can read more about state quarantining laws here
- Isolate, if you have contracted COVID-19 you must enter isolation where you cannot leave your home or isolation location except in emergency situations or to receive medical care. Keep the room well ventilated. Monitor yourself for any symptoms for 14 days and call your health care provider if you have difficulty breathing, loss of speech or mobility, confusion or chest pain. Say positive, contact family and friends regularly, maintain regular exercise at home and monitor your mental health.
- Vaccine, Australia has begun vaccinating it’s population against COVID-19, you can read more about the vaccination program and find out when you can get vaccinated here
For more information on how these vaccines work see The Different Types of COVID-19 Vaccines article from the WHO.
Medical treatments. Basic in hospital treatment options include; oxygen for severely ill patients, ventilation for patients who are critically ill and the use of Dexamethasone or other corticosteroids and/or anticoagulants.
Specific treatments have been evaluated for the treatment of Covid-19, but no antiviral agents have yet been shown to be consistently efficacious. In Australia, The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted provisional approval for the use of remdesivir in adults and adolescents who have been hospitalised. Remdesivir was shown to shorten the time to recovery in adults who were hospitalized with Covid-19. In the USA and Europe, baricitinib, an immunosuppressant, and tocilizumab, a monoclonal antibody, have been recommended for use with or without dexamethasone and/or remdesivir.
There is currently insufficient evidence to support the safe and effective use of ivermectin, doxycycline and zinc (either separately, or in combination) for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19, although there is some positive evidence suggesting there is a positive effect on illness within the first 24 hours. More robust, well-designed clinical trials are needed before these could be considered an appropriate treatment option.
The use of hydroxychloroquine (with or without zinc) for the treatment of COVID-19 is not recommended by regulators or the WHO as there is concern that, if used inappropriately, may cause toxicity and lead to adverse patient outcomes. Hydroxychloroquine has well known risks including cardiac toxicity, irreversible eye damage, and severe depletion of blood sugar levels.
Natural treatments such as zinc, melatonin, vitamin C, vitamin D, and other supplements are readily available and commonly used help prevent or treat COVID-19; however, there is insufficient data to recommend the use of such for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
The Immunisation Coalition takes an evidence-based approach to COVID-19 treatment.
More COVID-19 Information
Australian Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for the general public
ACT Government: COVID-19
Department of Health and Human Services Victoria: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Coronavirus Victoria: Symptoms and Risks
Coronavirus Victoria: Education – Information for parents, students and educators
NSW Health: COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Northern Territory Department of Health: Coronavirus
Western Australia: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
Queensland Health: Coronavirus(COVID-19)