Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): information for health professionals
On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The cause has now been identified as a novel coronavirus, which has been named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease previously called novel coronavirus is now known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The initial cluster of cases was epidemiologically linked to a seafood market in Wuhan City, but cases have now been detected elsewhere in China and in other countries.
For up-to-date information on the number of cases and geographical locations see the World Health Organization Western Pacific outbreaks and emergencies page and the John Hopkins University online tracking dashboard page.
For the most up to date information on the Australian situation and relevant guidelines please refer to the Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources web page.
Case definition and interim recommendations regarding surveillance, infection control and contact management
The most recent case definition can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website in the Interim advice to public health units – 2019-nCoV document.
The Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) web pages provide extensive resources including interim recommendations for surveillance, infection control and contact management.
Note: These interim recommendations are based on current evidence and may be subject to change as more information becomes available.
Diagnosis – taking samples and laboratory testing
Use appropriate infection control precautions when taking diagnostic specimens including the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Refer to the Australian Government Department of Health fact sheet on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during clinical care of people with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection.
Collect a combined throat and deep nasal swab, preferably in viral transport medium, or sputum or tracheal aspirate in sterile container. See SA Pathology specimen collection guide (PDF 320KB).
Send specimens to SA Pathology.
Request real time respiratory viral panel PCR testing and COVID-19, and document recent travel history and/or suspicion for COVID-19.
Do not refer patients to pathology collection centres – specimens should be collected by the treating doctor or at a designated specimen collection centre.
Diagnosis — referral for testing
General Practitioners with access to appropriate PPE can collect swabs in their rooms. The SA Pathology specimen collection guide (PDF 320KB) describes the swab collection procedure. Refer to the Australian Government Department of Health fact sheet on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during clinical care of people with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection. General Practitioners do not need authorisation from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) to perform testing.
Dedicated COVID-19 clinics and testing centres have been established across metropolitan and regional South Australia. See the COVID-19 clinics and testing centres webpage for more information and locations. Patients do not require a referral.
General Practitioners can also refer patients to a metropolitan or regional drive-through testing centre for specimen collection. Patients need a referral from their GP to access to access this service.
SA Pathology has also established a dedicated metropolitan Adelaide Domiciliary Service run by nurses for collection of specimens from patients with potential COVID-19. This service is for General Practitioners who are unable to collect the specimen due to not having access to PPE or appropriate facilities. This service facilitates the collection of specimens within the patients’ home. Use of the Domiciliary Service requires approval from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB). After approval, patients require a referral from their General Practitioner to access this service. Further details are available at SA Pathology.
COVID-19 is now a controlled notifiable condition under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011. Doctors and diagnostic laboratories are required to notify suspected and confirmed cases can be notified online.