Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. Find out more about the symptoms, and how to protect yourself and your family here.

What is a coronavirus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. The COVID-19 novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus affecting humans. Some coronaviruses can cause illness similar to the common cold and others can cause more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). These can result in significant ongoing health issues, and sometimes death.

Who is at risk

Everybody is at risk of getting COVID-19, but there are some who are more susceptible and at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms.

In Australia, the people who are most at risk of catching the virus are:

  • return travellers to Australia
  • those who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed of COVID-19
  • people in correctional and detention facilities
  • people in group residential settings.

Those who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 include:

Those who are at moderate risk of serious illness from COVID-19 include:

  • people with chronic medical conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as they have higher rates of chronic illness).

Signs and symptoms

Everyone who gets COVID-19 will experience it a little differently, but common symptoms include:

  • Fever fever
  • Cough cough
  • Sore throat sore throat
  • Runny nose runny nose
  • Loss of smell loss of smell and/or taste
  • Loss of appetite loss of appetite
  • Fatigue fatigue
  • Shortness of breath shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea diarrhoea
  • Nauseavomiting or nausea
  • Muscle pain muscle or joint pain

Find out more about the symptoms of COVID-19 and how they compare with the common cold and flu here.

How it spreads

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through droplets that an infected person sneezes or coughs out. These droplets carrying the disease can enter your body through the mucous membranes (wet parts) of your face – your eyes, nose and mouth.

If you’re close enough to an infected person, disease carrying droplets can travel through the air directly into your mucous membranes – letting the virus enter your system straight away. They can also make their way to a surface where you put your hands. If you don’t wash your hands regularly, the virus can move from that surface to your eyes, nose or mouth.

Direct membrane-to-membrane contact like kissing can also spread the virus. Sharing items that go in your mouth nose or eyes, like cutlery, cups, or cosmetics can also deliver the virus directly to your system.


To protect yourself, your family and the community from getting COVID-19 you need to maintain good hygiene and practise social distancing (also called physical distancing).


  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, get tested.
  • Stay 1.5 metres away from other people—think two big steps.
  • Wash your hands often, using soap and water or hand sanitiser.
  • Sneeze or cough into your arm or a tissue. Then put the tissue in the bin.
  • Wear a face mask when you are not able to keep 1.5 metres away from other people or whenever mandatory face masks are required.
  • When it’s your turn, get a vaccination. Vaccination is free, safe and the best possible protection from COVID-19.

Do not

  • Go near others if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Touch your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Shake hands.
  • Hug or kiss people.

When to seek help

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, call your doctor, or 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and get tested.

If you are very sick and need immediate care, call Emergency Services on triple zero (000).