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Symptoms and feeling unwell

Learn about the symptoms of COVID-19, how it's spread and what to do if you're feeling unwell.

Feeling unwell?

If you develop a fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of overseas travel, seek medical attention.

You can't have visitors when you self-isolate

You must not have any people visit you when you are self-isolating unless they:

  • usually live at that premises
  • are also self-isolating
  • enter the premises for medical purposes
  • enter the premises because of an emergency.

COVID-19 is a notifiable condition

Infection with COVID-19 is a notifiable condition under the NSW Public Health Act 2010. This means doctors and pathology laboratories are required to notify NSW Health of all people suspected or confirmed to have the infection.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, runny nose and shortness of breath.

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.

How COVID-19 compares with the flu

 

How COVID-19 is spread

Human coronaviruses are spread from someone infected with COVID-19 to other people in close contact

  • through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing
  • by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

When COVID-19 symptoms appear

The time between exposure to the virus and the first appearance of symptoms is typically 5 to 6 days, although it may range from 2 to 14 days.

For this reason, people who might have been in contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (or the flu):

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • cough into your elbow or into a tissue and immediately put the tissue in the bin
  • if unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).

Testing for COVID-19 in NSW

Testing is recommended for a person with fever (≥38°C) or history of fever (eg, night sweats, chills) or acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) who meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • a close contact in the 14 days prior to illness onset with a confirmed case
  • international travel in the 14 days prior to illness onset
  • a cruise ship passenger or crew member who has travelled in the 14 days prior to illness onset
  • a healthcare worker
  • an aged care or other residential care worker
  • in a geographically localised area with elevated risk of community transmission – see Locally acquired cases and clusters in NSW.

Testing is recommended for a person with fever (≥38°C) or history of fever (e.g. night sweats, chills) or acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat in the following settings where there are two or more cases of illness clinically consistent with COVID-19:

  • aged care and other residential care facilities
  • military operational settings
  • boarding schools
  • correctional facilities
  • detention centres
  • Aboriginal rural and remote communities, in consultation with the local Public Health Unit
  • settings where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred, in consultation with the local Public Health Unit – see Locally acquired cases and clusters in NSW.

Testing is recommended for hospitalised patients with fever (≥38°C) and acute respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) of an unknown cause.

Please note that these criteria have recently been expanded to recommend testing of individual patients with symptoms or fever suspected to have COVID-19:

  • who live in communities with local transmission, see: Confirmed cases in NSW by Local Government Area
  • who live in remote Aboriginal communities  
  • who have been referred by their GP or public health unit to a COVID-19 clinic for testing
  • whose clinician, after taking a full history, has reason to suspect that the patient may have COVID-19.

How COVID-19 is diagnosed

Infection with COVID-19 is diagnosed by finding the virus in respiratory samples, such as swabs from the back of the nose and throat or fluid from the lungs.

Samples for testing can be taken:

  • directly by GPs
  • at private pathology sites across NSW suitable for collection of COVID-19
  • at public hospitals across NSW, including COVID-19 clinics.

If you have been tested and are awaiting test results

If a doctor suspects you may have COVID-19 infection, follow the advice from NSW Health until your doctor or the public health unit advises that you no longer need to be in isolation.

NSW Health advice for people suspected to have COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection.

Visit NSW Health for more detailed advice on:

Notification to NSW Health

Public health staff will investigate all cases to:

  • find out how the infection occurred
  • identify other people at risk of infection
  • implement control measures and
  • provide other advice.

Related information

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