Chief Medical Officer’s statement on novel coronavirus 

A statement from Professor Brendan Murphy, Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, about cases of novel coronavirus.

Date published:
Media type:
Media release
General public

The Australian Government Department of Health is aware of the cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the region of Wuhan in China, and watching developments very closely.  

The situation warrants close attention and an evidence-based response and there is no cause for alarm in Australia.  

Australia has well established mechanisms to respond to ill travelers at points of entry.  

Under Australian legislation airlines must report passengers on board showing signs of an infectious disease, including fever, sweats or chills.  

Planes reporting ill travellers are met on arrival by biosecurity officers who make an assessment and take necessary actions, such as isolation and referral to hospital where required.  

The World Health Organization position does not currently recommend any travel advisory for China, or additional measures at airports beyond our established mechanisms.    

The Department of Health is aware that new cases have recently been identified, after a period of a week where no new cases had been identified.  

Whilst there is no clear evidence of human to human transmission, the recent cases, several days after the closure of the fish market that was initially identified as the likely source, raises direct transmission as a possibility.  

Importantly, however, there have been no reported cases of infection in the several hundred health care workers who have been exposed to the patients in China.  

All confirmed cases have so far been people who have been in Wuhan, or visited Wuhan.

Whilst there have been two deaths, one was a person with significant other medical conditions. Wuhan Tianhe international airport will commence exit screening of passengers.  

The World Health Organization is closely monitoring the situation and in regular contact with Chinese authorities to provide support required. The Department of Health is also in contact with the World Health Organization.  

The Department of Health works in partnership with State and Territory Chief Health Officers, to ensure that we continue an evidence based response in Australia. The Chief Health Officers will be meeting early this week to further discuss the recent developments with this virus.  

Australia has processes in place to enhance border measures in relation to a communicable disease, if required, working through our established Health Protection system.


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