Date published: 
28 February 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ALLISON LANGDON:

So let's stick now with the coronavirus because there are so many questions. And here to sort fact from fiction is Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly. Paul, thank you so much for your time this morning. As we've just been discussing, there's been some pretty alarming language used here. I mean Professor Ian MacKay at the University of Queensland, he says in essence, it's out of the box, but for most people it will be like a bad cold. Is that how you view it

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY:

Well the most- we're learning more things about this virus every day but most of the information so far comes from China and many, many cases, as you now know, of those 80,000 around the world, still the majority, are from China and mostly Hubei province. So there is 80 per cent who have relatively mild illness, but importantly, about five per cent can get very severe, we would say ending up in intensive care and there has been a death rate, over 2000 people have died. So this is more than just a bad cold for some people.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay. So, Paul, I was reading as well over the last 24 hours, and I just spoke to Peter Dutton about this as well, that someone in Japan who had the virus had got over it, but then re-caught it. Is that real? Is that factual?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY:

So I've read those media reports as well and we'll be following that information up today. As I say, we're learning more and more about this virus every day. So that would be the first occasion that we've been aware of, if it turned out to be true.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

And what does that mean?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY:

Well firstly I'd say that would be very unusual for a coronavirus. We do have four other coronaviruses that do circulate essentially as bad colds. We do know about two very severe coronaviruses—so called MERS and SARS—they were very severe end of the spectrum and definitely not a cold. But for those ones in particular, it appears lifelong immunity occurs so this would be very unusual and it would of course be worrying, yes.​​​​​​​

ALLISON LANGDON:

It sort of feels like, for a good couple of- for a good week or more, that this was sort of just bubbling along and then the sort of last 48 hours it's really escalated. As it stands now, there are more than 20 confirmed cases in Australia. Do you think the numbers here will rise?​​​​​​​

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY:

So of those 22* cases in Australia, they- the first group came directly from Wuhan, or associated from Wuhan where the epicentre of this virus outbreak is. The other eight were from the Diamond Princess and we know large, large numbers of people got infected on that cruise ship. We haven't had a single case and we've been testing a lot—thousands and thousands of tests have been done—we've not had a single case circulating in the community in Australia right now but we are watching.​​​​​​​

KARL STEFANOVIC:

What do you say to the elderly if you can, and also our kids are more worried about this than anything at the moment. What would you say to them, what's the language around this that we as parents can use as well?​​​​​​​

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY:

So I think stress at the moment that there really is no danger in Australia right now, but we are getting prepared. That's why the Prime Minister activated our emergency plan, on the back of what's happening in the rest of the world. But in Australia right now, there's no need to change anything. That would be the first point. For older people, yes, they are the ones that unfortunately are most at risk. So messages there are really as we're preparing for the flu season, make sure you get your flu vaccine, to consider those standard hygiene messages we have around coughing and sneezing, washing your hands and so forth.

The good news for children at the moment is that, at least in China, there've been very few children that have become sick with this virus. So that's curious and we have to watch and wait and see what happens in the rest of the world in relation to that. But at the moment, children themselves seem to be at less risk than adults.​​​​​​​

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Still so much to learn about it, don't we? We appreciate your time today, thank you.

*Current figure is 23

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