Paramedics take full precautions treating a patient who presented at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital with flu-like symptoms on Tuesday night.
Paramedics take full precautions treating a patient who presented at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital with flu-like symptoms on Tuesday night. Frank Redward

Health staff safeguard against suspected coronavirus cases

FRONTLINE health care workers, even in regional NSW hospitals, are protecting themselves when treating any patients who present with coronavirus-like symptoms.  

Paramedics and emergency ward staff at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital wore protective gowns and facemasks while treating a patient who presented with flu or asthma-like symptoms on Tuesday night. 

NSW Health said it won't be commenting on any potential COVID-19 cases that are under investigation in regional hospitals, however no coronavirus cases have to date been confirmed in regional NSW.

This afternoon NSW Health issued the following statement:

"Health care workers, including ambulance personnel who are caring for patients with any suspected infectious disease use appropriate personal protective equipment and follow good infection control procedures," a NSW Health spokeswoman said in relation to the images taken in Coffs Harbour. 

"This is because they may have what is considered close contact with a patient."

Paramedics are now taking such precautions when treating any patient suffering flu or pneumonia symptoms as the virus is said to be nearing classification as a global pandemic. 

Many cases, generally turn out to be SARs, severe acute respiratory syndrome or pneumonia, but there is concern of mass coronavirus infection rates heading into the flu season. 

Today the government revealed an aged care worker had been diagnosed with the virus in Sydney's north potentially exposing residents. 

The woman in her 50s is the third person to be infected in NSW via human-to-human transmission in Australia - all of the known cases have been in Sydney. 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the woman had contact with 13 residents of the aged-care home, and that two of them subsequently reported respiratory symptoms.

"And so we did the checks. And, of course, we're aware that it's likely that she could have been capable of passing on the coronavirus from at least the day before, 24 hours, so that's 23 February," he said.

One of those two residents, a 95-year-old woman, has died.

The woman was under the care of the 50-year-old female carer, but it is unclear whether she had the virus at this stage.

Health authorities are also scrambling to contact people who travelled on flights to Sydney with people who had the virus.

A man in his 30s tested positive for coronavirus after he travelled to Australia from Iran via Malaysia and Singapore at the weekend.

He was on Jetstar Asia flight 3K 5186 from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore on February 29, and then Qantas flight QF82 to Sydney, arriving on March 1.

NSW Health warned he may have been infectious while on the plane and said it would contact passengers seated around him.

He remains in isolation at Westmead Hospital.

Several flights to Sydney that had infected passengers on them included:

Qantas flight QF02 from Singapore on February 28
Korean Air flight KE121 from Seoul on February 27
Malindo Air flight OD171 from Kuala Lumpur, arriving on March 1
Health authorities have asked people travelling from Iran, South Korea and Japan to be particularly vigilant for COVID-19 symptoms including a sore throat, fatigue and coughing.

"Whether or not it was related to corona, we don't know at this point," Mr Hazzard said.



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