Chief Medical Officer’s interview on the Today Show about novel coronavirus

Read the transcript of the Professor Brendan Murphy's interview on the Channel 9 Today Show about novel coronavirus.

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KARL STEFANOVIC: In the last few minutes it's been revealed the Queensland man suspected of contracting the virus has been released from isolation. That's good news. Doctors are saying he's no longer displaying any symptoms. However, the United States confirms its first case of the virus this morning to Australia's Chief Medical Officer. Brendan Murphy joins us now. Brendan, good morning to you. All of this is a big worry.

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: Good morning Karl. Look, I think our concern has increased over the last three or four days for a number of reasons. That there've been significant increases in case numbers in Wuhan in China, where the disease originated. We now have evidence of some human-to-human transmission which we didn't have before. And whilst there are many mild cases, there have been some serious cases and as we've heard this morning, reports of up to six deaths. So for that reason, we have in Australia instituted proportionate border measures in relation to direct flights to Wuhan. But I should say that we are very well prepared as a nation to deal with any case of this disease if it does come here from China.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Brendan, the reality is that Wuhan is a significant transport hub in China, that any transport hub in China means a lot of people. A lot of people going there, a lot of people going elsewhere from there. Trying to contain this thing is going to be incredibly difficult. Now it's all about treating, is it not? And what should people know about travel in and out of China and also just generally speaking about this?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: So, we've updated our travel advisory suggesting that people exercise extreme caution. I personally wouldn't be considering travel to those parts of Wuhan where the markets are. So we've updated that travel advisory. You're right that it's never completely possible to contain viruses when, for a lot of them, there is an incubation period of sometimes up to seven days where people are asymptomatic. So our focus is on directly dealing with the major traffic from Wuhan, providing information, meeting everyone who comes off those planes. We've now declared this a Listed Human Disease with biosecurity implications and we want to make sure that anyone who's come from Wuhan or the area where this infection has been, if they do develop symptoms, seek medical attention and we're well prepared to respond if that happens.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Brendan, the issue is, and I'm sure you've been on a flight recently, anyone who arrives on a flight from anywhere, a long distance flight and that's what we're talking about here, the symptoms of this are cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose - they're almost cold-like symptoms, aren't they? I mean, this is going to be so broad. The logistics in China to narrow down someone who might have it are pretty extreme.

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: That's exactly right. I mean, one of the particular features of this virus is that nearly everyone has a fever. But you're right, it's not really distinguishable from the flu and it is flu season in China at the moment. That's why we are very much focusing our attention on those direct flights from Wuhan where there is a higher risk. But again, people who are unwell, who come off a flight like that, are probably just as likely to not have this virus as something else. But that's why we've developed protocols for the biosecurity officers and the public health officers to try and determine whether the risk is significant.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, we're well versed in it. We did a terrific job a couple of years ago so it means we're prepared for it. And do things like wearing masks on planes help at all?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: No, I don't think there's evidence to suggest that we should go to that stage at the moment. Obviously if you were in contact with someone with the virus, then you would want to take protection.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Do you have any further update on this Brisbane person?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: What I've been told is that the tests aren't back yet. But that the person is well and is now at home in home quarantine, waiting for the tests. But the good news is that there's no clinical concern about this person but we still don't know whether they've had this virus or just another virus such as flu.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Do you have a specific test for it?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY: There are specific tests being developed. They're just- they've been developed just over the last few days at some of our specialist labs, yep.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. This stuff is moving pretty quickly but we appreciate your time and expertise on it. Thank you so much. Professor Brendan Murphy there.


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