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

JOSH SZEPS:

We can speak now to Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, who joins us from Canberra. Professor Murphy, thanks very much for being with us. How concerned should we be about coronavirus?

BRENDAN MURPHY:

Clearly we are concerned at what’s happening in China. It’s clear that this disease is not under control. The Chinese authorities are taking very significant measures, as your reporter just outlined, to contain the epicentre of the infection in Hubei Province. But we know that it has spread to small pockets in other parts of China, generally people from that area of Hubei Province. And we know there are more than 40 exported cases including to Australia. Again, isolated cases, no evidence of any human to human transmission outside of China. All of the cases outside of China do seem to have come from China. And we are very well-prepared in Australia, we have very strong public health response systems, as evidenced by the way the four cases identified yesterday have been managed.

JOSH SZEPS:

When you say no evidence of human to human transmission outside of China, would that have anything to do with the specifics of the virus itself? Or is that just the fact that we’re dealing with it well?

BRENDAN MURPHY:

Well I think it’s probably that there are small numbers and it’s being dealt with well in those countries. It’s pretty clear now from the data coming out of China that close contacts of infected people can contract the virus. So the virus is clearly being proven to have human to human transmission. But if we get onto it well and you don’t get a focus of cases then that can be prevented.

JOSH SZEPS:

One of the characteristics of this virus, as I understand it, is that it can begin with symptoms that are almost identical to a common cold or a flu and those can last for some number of days. Does that pose a specific challenge?

BRENDAN MURPHY:

It does because it is flu season in China and probably most people with those sort of symptoms, which are relatively non-specific – fever is very prominent, cough, breathlessness – probably don’t have this virus. That’s why we’re focusing our public health message in Australia to say that if you have come from that Hubei Province of China in the last two or three weeks and you become unwell, please tell ahead to your doctor or your emergency department, call ahead and tell them you’ve had that travel history, and be tested. Most people will probably be negative, but we need to capture anyone who’s come from China, particularly before they closed down that area late last Thursday.

JOSH SZEPS:

But, to clarify, if you haven’t been to China and if you just have a bit of a sniffle and you’ve eaten some dumplings, you don’t need to be rushing to an emergency room just yet.

BRENDAN MURPHY:

No, indeed. The only other situation where you might be at risk is if you’ve been a close family contact of someone who’s come from China who is unwell, and that’s pretty unlikely.

JOSH SZEPS:

Professor Murphy, thank you so much for your time. Good to talk to you.

BRENDAN MURPHY:

Pleasure.

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