This page contains the latest information about COVID19 in Alstonville and will be updated regularly.
Latest update March 28th 2020.
Alstonville Clinic remains open for all healthcare needs. People still need medical care for all the other problems that aren’t coronavirus related!
We have new procedures in place to protect our patients and help stop the spread of Coronavirus in Alstonville.
We are aiming to eliminate time spent in the waiting room
Many of our consultations can now be done via video calls or over the phone
All patients with a cough, cold, sore throat, flu or fever will initially be assessed by a doctor over the phone.
All patients coming to the clinic for an appointment – for any reason – will be asked to wait in their car or outside until the doctor is ready to see them. We’ll ring you when it is time to come in
if you have a cough or cold or flu or fever, please let us know before you come in to the clinic – even if we are seeing you about something else.
Frequently asked questions on Coronavirus.
What is coronavirus and COVID19?
Coronavirus is a family of germs that cause respiratory illness, such as a cold or cough. The family has been known about for a long time. COVID19 is a new member of the coronavirus family, only becoming evident in China in December 2019. Symptoms range from a mild cough to pneumonia. Some people recover easily, others may get very sick, very quickly. There is evidence that it spreads from person to person. COVID19 is responsible for the current pandemic.
How is COVID19 spread?
COVID19 is spread from an infected person to another person. The virus is carried by ‘droplets’, or moisture, which a person expels into the air when they cough or is carried on their hands after they have touched their mouth or nose. The virus can live for a long time on surfaces that an infected person has touched – like tables, cutlery, door handles. A cough can spread the virus through the air about 1.5 metres.
What are the symptoms? How severe are they?
Most (80%) people who are infected with COVID19 will have either no symptoms or will have fairly mild symptoms – typically those of a cold or flu. This includes a cough, fever, sore throat, headache, aches and pains, tiredness. Interestingly, it seems that many people start with a loss of the sense of smell!
20% of people infected with COVID19 – that is one out of every five – will develop pneumonia and will require care in hospital. The main indication of worsening infection is shortness of breath.
About 5% of infected people will require intensive care treatment to support their breathing.
It appears from overseas experience that about 1% will die.
Is COVID19 just like the flu? What makes it so special?
COVID19 is new, so that no-one in the world is immune to it. In contrast, many of us have an existing immunity to strains of Influenza.
Because COVID19 is so new, there is as yet no vaccination. We have an effective vaccination each year against Influenza.
COVDI 19 is more contagious than influenza and appears to be about ten time more likely to cause severe illness or death.
So, no, it is not just like the flu.
Will I get COVID19?
Probably. It is estimated that between 50% and 80% of Australians will be infected with Coronavirus over the next 12 months.
The aim of ‘stopping the spread’ is to ensure that we don’t all get it in the next two months, flooding the health services so that care is not available.
Who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID19?
People aged over 70 are at increased risk of developing severe complications from COVID19.
People with other long term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, chronic airways limitation and kidney disease are also at increased risk.
People on immunosuppression treatment after transplant or for autoimmune disease or having chemotherapy for cancer are also at increased risk.
I am pregnant. Am I at increased risk from COVID19?
Current experience from overseas suggests that pregnant women and their babies are not at increased risk from COVID19. As always when pregnant, it is best to be extra cautious.
Are my children at risk from COVID19?
Newborn babies, children and young people are much more likely to have no symptoms or mild illness when infected with COVID19. They can, however, still be contagious.
Should I be sending my children to school?
Not if they have a cold, cough, flu or fever. Otherwise, the government is currently leaving that question up to individual parents. It depends on whether having children at home would prevent you from doing essential work. Children seem not to get very sick if they are infected with COVID19. Advice about this is likely to change.
How can I protect myself from coronavirus?
Coronavirus is picked up from infected people who cough or sneeze on you, or if you touch them or something they have touched.
So it is best wherever possible to stay 1.5m from other people, and wash your hands after touching people or things.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing means less contact between you and other people to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases.
We should all stay at home unless necessary to leave.
If we go out, we should keep 1.5m away from other people, and avoid places where there are other people. At shops and other places, follow the instructions about the maximum number of people permitted inside.
We should wash our hands frequently with soap and water.
What do I do if I have a cold, cough, fever, sore throat or flu?
If you have a cold, cough or flu, you almost certainly have a virus, but it may not be coronavirus. We are seeing lots of ‘normal’ cold and flus. Either way, we don’t want the virus to spread.
Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and keeping your distance from others when you are sick is the best defence against most viruses.
- self isolate at home.
- wash your hands frequently with soap and water, including before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
- cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and wash your hands
- avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people)
If you need advice, ring our surgery on 66280505 and let our receptionist know that you have a cough, cold or flu. Our on-call doctor will ring you back.
If you do need to go outside or be near other people – for example, if we have made an appointment for you to come to the clinic, it is best to wear a mask if you have one.
Should I get a swab?
Current guidelines are that people should be swabbed if they have a cold, cough, flu or fever AND they have also been overseas in the last two weeks OR had close contact with someone proven to be infected with COVID19. Close contact is described below.
So, according to the current guidelines, most people will not need a swab. You need to be sick and at high risk.
If you are advised to have a swab, we will usually advise you to attend Sullivan and Nicolaides pathology at Ballina or Lismore.
What if I have just come back from overseas?
You need to self-isolate for two weeks. See below.
What if I have contact with someone with a diagnosis of coronavirus? What is the difference between close contact and casual contact?
Close contact means that you spent more than 15 minutes face to face with an infectious person, or more than 2 hours in the same room as an infected person.
Casual contact means that you spent less than 15 minutes face to face with an infectious person, or less than 2 hours in the same room as an infected person.
An infectious person is someone who has had a positive swab test for coronavirus and has not been cleared. They are considered infectious from 24 hours before they start developing symptoms.
So, if you had contact with someone and two days later they developed a cough, cold or flu and swabbed positive, you are not considered a close contact.
It is not clear when the infectious period start if someone has a positive swab but has never had any symptoms, but we presume it is from the time the swab was taken and 24 hours beforehand,
What if I have contact with someone who has a cough and cold?
If they are not known to have coronavirus you don’t have to take any special precautions unless you yourself develop symptoms of a cough, cold or flu.
Do I have to isolate myself? Should I isolate myself?
Yes, is the general answer.
- You have to isolate yourself
• if you have a cough, cold or flu. You should stay isolated until the symptoms resolve – that is, until you are better.
• if you return to Australia from overseas, for two weeks
• if you are a close contact of someone with COVID19 (as above), for two weeks
- You should isolate yourself
• if you are a person at increased risk (as above)
• if you do not have to do essential travel
If I have to self isolate, what does that mean?
- Stay at home.
- Don’t go to public places including work, school, childcare, university or public gatherings.
- Only people who usually live with you should be in the home.
- Do not see visitors.
- Ask others who are not in isolation to get food and necessities for you.
- To minimise the spread of any germs you should regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched such as door handles, light switches, kitchen and bathroom areas. Clean with household detergent or disinfectant.
- If you develop symptoms of a cough, cold or flu you should call us on 66280505.
If I am self-isolating, do I need to wear a mask?
If you are well, there is no need to wear surgical masks at home
If you must leave home, such as to seek medical care, wear a surgical mask. If you don’t have a mask, take care to not cough or sneeze on others.
If I am self isolating, can I go outside?
It is safe for you to go into your garden or courtyard or balcony. Don’t go to public places.
What does it mean for people that I live with if I have to self isolate?
Others that live with you are not required to be isolated, unless they also meet one of the isolation criteria or become unwell with cough, cold or flu.
If you develop symptoms and are confirmed to have coronavirus, they will be classified as close contacts and will need to be isolated.
How can I get advice from Alstonville Clinic for my cold, cough or flu?
Ring us on 02 66280505 for any advice.
Our on call doctor will call you back.
Can I still see the clinic for other issues?
Yes, we are open for all our usual care.
Also, we are now conducting many consultations via Telehealth.
Should I still come to the clinic for my routine appointment, annual check or care plan?
There are some consultations for which a trip to the clinic is necessary or better. For example, sometimes an examination is required or the situation is complex.
Some routine consultations may be able to be postponed until after the COVID19 risk has passed, especially if you are a person at increased risk.
You are welcome to discuss with our reception team whether a Telehealth consultation would be appropriate.
What is a telehealth consultation?
A Telehealth consultation is not a usual face-to-face consultation, but is conducted either via video, over the Internet or over the telephone.
You will be given instructions on how the telehealth consultation will work.
You may receive a text SMS message with a link to a web page, which will provide a video and audio link from your phone or computer to our doctor or nurse.
What if I don’t have a mobile phone or computer, or I don’t know how to work it?
No problem – we will call you on your telephone.
Are you especially busy at the moment?
Actually, we are rather quiet at the moment. Hopefully, the ‘stop the spread’ campaign is effective and that situation doesn’t change.
What do I do when it is time for my appointment?
We are asking all patients to wait in their car (or outside the surgery) from the time their consultation is scheduled. We will ring you when the doctor or nurse is ready and it is time to come in. If you do not have a mobile phone, come in and let our team know where you would like to wait.
What if my appointment is for a cough, cold or flu? What if I have a cough, cold or flu but am seeing you about a different problem?
We will provide you with a face mask to put on before you come in the clinic, and you will see the doctor in a different room than usual.
Should I wait in the car if the condition is urgent – if I have chest pain, shortness of breath, vomiting, bleeding, or pain?
No. Come straight in.
How can I avoid picking up a germ or giving anyone else a germ when I am at the clinic? What happens at the reception desk and in the waiting room?
We are trying to keep our waiting room as empty as possible, which is why people are being asked to wait in the car.
Please make sure you have a mask on if you have a cold, cough or flu, even if your appointment is about a different issue.
Please maintain social distancing. Keep about 1.5m away from other people. You will notice we have spread out the chairs in the waiting room. There is a line on the floor in from of the reception desk. Please keep behind this line when talking to our reception team.
I’m feeling really sick. What should I do?
If it is an emergency – if you have severe pain, or trouble breathing, ring the ambulance on 000.
Ring us at anytime on 0266280505. If it is after hour, as per usual, one of our doctors is on call 24 hours for urgent calls.
I’m feeling really stressed. What should I do?
It is completely normal to be stressed about all these changes and all the news. Physical isolation shouldn’t mean social isolation and you should try and keep in touch with your family and friends even when you feel stuck at home.
Any of our GPs would be happy to talk with you about troubling thoughts and feelings. If necessary, we can put you in touch with a psychologist who is an expert in helping people with stress.
In addition, LifeLine has extra services on 131144.
I’m isolated at home and need prescriptions, food, help. What should I do?
The Alstonville Community is a caring community and we will put you in touch with someone who can help. Ring us on 66280505.