Date published: 
22 January 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

DAVID KOCH: There are fears a deadly new virus similar to SARS may have reached Australia. Health authorities are on high alert after a man was tested for the disease in Brisbane. The coronavirus is believed to have originated in China. Causes a type of pneumonia. The bug has killed at least six people in China and affected more than 300. The United States has confirmed its first case this morning, along with cases in Japan, Thailand and [audio skip] may be here.

Professor Brendan Murphy is Australia's Chief Medical Officer. He joins me now from Canberra. Thank you so much for your time. How worried are you about this virus?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: Morning Kochie. We obviously have developed more concern over the last three or four days on the basis of the significant increase in case numbers and the fact that human-to-human transmission to some extent has been proven and the fact that there have been, as you say, six deaths. But Australia is very well prepared. Most of these cases, even the ones in other countries, have come from Wuhan. So the epicentre remains in that city in China. But because of the significant increase in case numbers and the human-to-human transmission, we've put additional border measures in place. But we are a very well-prepared country. We have often prepared for new infectious diseases and all our state health authorities are very well prepared.

DAVID KOCH: And we're regarded as one of the best-prepared countries in the world for a pandemic, so that's really comforting. But tell us about this virus. What is it, where does it come from and what are the symptoms we should be watching out for?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: Sure. So this virus- a coronavirus, there are lots of coronaviruses. Some of them infect humans and just cause simple things like common colds. But this virus is likely to have come from an animal species where they also exist. We don't know yet which animal species, but in that city of China it's probably mutated and been able to cross over into humans. The disease it causes is very much a flu-like illness. Nearly everybody has a high temperature, sometimes a sore throat, a cough and the more severe cases get pneumonia and breathing difficulties. But fever is probably the most important thing. But the critical thing for people is that if they have [audio skip] from or been in contact with people in Wuhan, China or that part of China and they develop these flu-like symptoms to seek medical attention.

DAVID KOCH: So how do you determine whether it is this or the flu? Say you get the flu and a lot of people- cause this is something like out of the movies, isn't it, these sort of viruses that spread everywhere. A lot of people could get worried going oh, is this a coronavirus?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: Not if they're ordinary Australian citizens who haven't travelled. There's no evidence to suggest that the virus has been- is present and transmitted yet in Australia. So the only people who should be concerned is if you've recently returned from China or particularly the city of Wuhan.

 DAVID KOCH: Okay. Alright, thank you so much for your time this morning. It's great.

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