Optometrists in Australia are being proactive about putting in place procedures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which, the World Health Organisation has declared a global health emergency, only the sixth time the WHO has declared an international emergency of this kind.
The virus is reportedly spreading from person-to-person. According to NSW Health advice, a person can catch the virus if they’re in close proximity to an infected person after only 15 minutes.
Close contact means being face-to-face with an infected person for at least 15 minutes or being in the same room for at least two hours, as someone who has coronavirus when that person was infectious.
Patients preparing to see their optometrist will be asked two questions before all appointments and again on arrival at the optometry practice:
- Have you returned from a coronavirus affected area in China in the past two weeks?
- Have you returned from China with symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat or breathing difficulties?
If your answer is ‘Yes’ to either of the above questions health authorities in Australia have advised that it is safest for you to ‘not’ see your optometrist until after the incubation period of 14 days has passed.
As of early February, the coronavirus outbreak had killed more than 362 people and infected over 17,300 globally. It is now starting to spread beyond China with one person from the Philippines dead from the virus.
In Australia, it has been reported that there are currently 12 people diagnosed with the virus – four in NSW, four in Victoria, two in Queensland and two in South Australia.
Coronavirus initially causes flu-like symptoms of fever, coughing, sore throat and breathing difficulties. It can lead to pneumonia and in 2.9 percent of cases people will die from the virus, according to the Australian Department of Health.
The incubation period is often longer than other viruses such as the flu and can take two to 10 days to show symptoms. During the incubation period the virus remains contagious.
If you have travelled to an affected area and, within 14 days of travel, have developed a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath or if you have had contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, you should isolate yourself from other people.
If you show these signs seek medical assistance straight away by contacting your GP or your emergency department or call the health direct helpline on 1800 022 222.