'We are prepared': Health district ready if coronavirus hits
UPDATE, 2.20pm: THERE are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Northern NSW, according to the boss of the local health district.
Wayne Jones said none of the confirmed 22 cases in NSW were in regional areas, but assured the community that local hospitals were prepared.
"Testing for COVID-19 has been occurring in facilities within Northern NSW Local Health District since mid-February," he said.
"All NSW public health units, including North Coast Public Health Unit staff based at Lismore, are experienced in working closely with local clinicians in preparing for public health responses.
"This includes recently participating in exercises using various scenarios to maximise our preparedness.
"NNSWLHD is supporting staff to follow heightened infection control measures, hand hygiene and appropriate use of personal protective equipment (including masks) in addition to standard precautions in the health care setting.
"We are also working closely with our primary health network and with general practices to support them in responding to this unfolding situation."
What happens if there is a 'potential' case?
If a case is considered likely, NSW Health takes "proactive steps", Mr Jones said.
This involves getting in touch with all close contacts and giving them advice on isolation, symptoms to be aware of and their level of risk.
"We only discuss the location of patients when they have been confirmed to have COVID-19," he said.
"We will also confirm where the patient has been if those locations pose any risk to other people who we may not be able to get in direct contact with."
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, runny nose, or shortness of breath.
"The most important step in protecting yourself from any illness, including COVID-19 is regular handwashing, especially before preparing and eating meals or drinking," Mr Jones said.
"Anyone with symptoms should isolate themselves from others and practise simple hygiene by covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow and washing their hands thoroughly.
"It is important people take action to keep their family and friends safe, so don't be afraid to speak to your doctor if you have any symptoms."
Got symptoms? This is what to do next
Please let your GP know if, in the last 14 days before feeling unwell, you have travelled to any of the countries that are listed as being at higher risk for COVID-19, which can be found through the NSW Health website: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx
Please call ahead to speak to your GP before visiting, or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
GPs can arrange testing, or if you are very unwell you can attend your local Emergency Department for assessment, but please call ahead before attending.
Original story: THE Northern Rivers is as prepared as it possibly could be for any outbreak of the Coronavirus COVID-19, according to health professionals.
Northern NSW Local Health District CEO, Wayne Jones, told the ABC this morning they had been in a planning process for several months with clinicians, management, and sites.
"So we are very well prepared for our pathways if people present - how to test them, what to do with them and if they are tested positive in the conditions they present then we are very organised in that regard," he said.
Mr Jones reiterated that people should feel confident in the health service as there had been a lot of work done for an extended period and they were now as "prepared as anyone can be should this escalate".
"We are also working with our primary health network partners and looking at how the GP can refer patients to testing through private pathology service instead of all coming through the emergency department and also working with our private hospitals to ensure that they are well supported should the need be.
"We are also working with our tertiary partners, particularly Southern Cross University in supporting them," he said.
He said the focus at this point in time was primarly on people who had visited or transited through China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
"They are the ones we are taking a high profile with and they are the ones considered higher risk and obviously people who have been presenting with any symptoms of a respiratory condition that may have been exposed," he said.
"We have systems in place where we identify them, we test them and we manage them accordingly."
He said the numbers of patients tested had not been huge and they were keeping a close watch on any changes.
NSW Health said "they would not comment on potential cases under investigation".
COVID-19 outbreaks so far: NSW Health
NSW Health confirmed six new cases of COVID-19 on March 3, bringing the total number of positive cases to 15 in the state since the outbreak began.
The first new case, the 10th person diagnosed, a man in his 30s, arrived in Sydney from Iran on Sunday 1 March on a flight from Singapore, and transited through Malaysia.
The man then flew to Australia on Qantas Flight QF82 Row 32 which departed Singapore 8.30pm on 29 March and arrived Sydney 1 March 2020 at 7.35am.
The man presented to his GP on 1 March and was referred for testing. He is isolated in Westmead Hospital.
The latest case, is a woman in her 50s, who has not travelled outside of Australia recently and is believed to have acquired the illness locally.