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Frequently asked questions

This page provides answer to COVID-19 questions provided to Queensland Health by members of our Queensland Clinical Senate, Statewide Clinical Networks and primary care communities.

What PPE do I need to wear when caring for a patient with confirmed, probable or suspected COVID-19?

Transmission-based precautions for patients with confirmed, probable or suspected COVID-19 include:

  • contact and droplet precautions are recommended for routine care of patients
  • contact and airborne precautions are recommended when:
    • performing aerosol generating procedures (AGPs), including intubation and bronchoscopy
    • managing patients with severe symptoms suggestive of pneumonia (e.g. fever, difficulty breathing or frequent, severe or productive coughing episodes)
    • care of patients critically ill in ICU
    • having prolonged or very close patient contact.

Reference 1; Reference 2

Is there a recommended order for fitting and removing of PPE?

It is important that PPE is fitted correctly and removed and disposed of safely.

A poster available from Queensland Health, outlining how to fit and remove personal protective equipment in the correct order.

What samples should I collect from a patient with probable or suspected COVID-19?

Patients meeting the probable or suspect case definition should be tested for the virus SARS-CoV-2. For most patients with mild illness in the community, an upper respiratory tract specimen should be collected.

  • Patients should have a combined oropharyngeal AND nasopharyngeal swab.
  • Additionally, a sputum specimen should ideally be collected for patients with lower respiratory tract involvement.
  • Serology is not currently available, but should be collected if possible, for retrospective testing.
  • A full respiratory virus panel should only be requested in assessment of vulnerable immunocompromised patients.

Reference 1

Should we admit all patients with confirmed, probable or suspected COVID-19?

Not all patients need to be admitted to hospital. It will depend on whether the person is well enough to safely manage their illness at home and their individual home situation. If clinically indicated, confirmed, probable or suspected cases may be managed at home if it can be ensured that they and household contacts are counselled about risk and agree and are able to follow the requirements of self isolation available at https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/how-to-protect-yourself-and-others-from-coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-self-quarantine-for-coronavirus-covid-19

Reference 1; Reference 2

What treatment options do we have for patients with COVID-19?

In the absence of pathogen-specific interventions, patient management largely depends on supportive treatment, and vigilance for and treatment of complications. Further advice on clinical management is available from WHO.

When is a COVID-19 vaccine likely to become available?

There is no vaccine available for COVID-19 at this stage and no firm indication of when it may become available. There are a number of research groups worldwide working on vaccine development.

Vaccination against influenza is strongly recommended to reduce the risk of co-infection.

Who undertakes the contact tracing (including staff) if we have a confirmed COVID-19 case?

Each Hospital and Health Service is responsible for contact tracing of staff, patients and visitors that may have been exposed to COVID-19 within the health service.

What do I do if one of our staff is exposed to secretions of a patient with confirmed COVID-19?

Attend first aid when required. Assess exposure type, inform your immediate supervisor and notify your local infection control practitioner for occupational exposure advice.

What is the risk of exposure to our families?

Because it’s a new virus, everyone is potentially at risk of contracting COVID-19. This doesn’t mean that everyone is going to get COVID-19, but it does mean we all have a role to play in keeping ourselves and others well. Following advice in relation to undertaking effective hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette will minimise the risk to families.

What about laundering of uniforms or work clothes?

The personal protective equipment we use is effective, however, healthcare workers should be aware that it is still possible for their uniforms to become contaminated. Even under normal circumstances, it is good practice to change out of your uniform/work clothes after you finish work and launder these clothes daily on the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry them completely (either air dry or tumble dry as appropriate for the item).

Should older (over 60 years) or immunosuppressed staff be caring for COVID-19 patients?

Current information suggests that older people and people with severe chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, are at higher risk of developing more serious illness from COVID-19. Healthcare workers with immune deficiencies, such as neutropenia, disseminated malignancy or on treatment that produces immunodeficiency, may also be at higher risk of developing more serious illness from COVID-19.

The Australian Health Principal Protection Committee has advised that workers at higher risk of serious illness, where the risk cannot be sufficiently mitigated, should not work in high-risk settings.

Rostering staff to care for infectious patients should take into consideration the above information as well as the level of care required and subsequent risk of unintended exposure.

Decisions about whether individual staff members should be providing care to infected cases should be made locally on a case by case basis. If a staff member is unsure whether they should be providing care to infected cases, they should be encouraged to seek advice from their healthcare provider.

Reference 1;   Reference 2

Information for consumers, including current advice on the number of confirmed cases in Queensland, can be found at COVID-19 coronavirus information for Queenslanders.

Last updated: 30 March 2020