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Coronavirus fact check: Doctor answers common COVID-19 questions

Tom Elliott
Article image for Coronavirus fact check: Doctor answers common COVID-19 questions

As coronavirus fears grow, misinformation about COVID-19 has flourished.

Former President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, was the first general practitioner in Victoria to set up a drive through testing centre when he established one at his Altona North clinic.

He joined 3AW’s Neil Mitchell to fact check common coronavirus misconceptions.

Q: How do we differentiate between coronavirus symptoms and what could be a bad cold?

“All of these things start the same way, runny eyes, runny nose, sore throat, maybe a bit of a temperature, muscle aches and pains,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“The current thing is the travel element, exposure to travel or a workplace that can be a problem. They’re the things that make you increasingly concerned, but it’s actually okay to sit at home for a day or two and see how you’re going.”

Q: What happens to a person once they’re diagnosed? Is there treatment they can receive?

“There’s supportive care, there’s no curative care,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“The concern is if you did get it and you are immuno-compromised, or you are unlucky to get a bad dose of it and you’re hospitalised, you need support for your lungs because the lungs become very, very full of infection.

“We’re trying to avoid the load of people getting to that level, it’s a matter of reducing the load on hospitals so they can actually handle the case load.”

Q: How long does it take the antibodies to form? If I’ve been exposed could I test positive even if I have no symptoms?

“We’ve found people and tested them with excreting coronavirus to other people when they themselves haven’t got symptoms,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“Like other infections you are infective before you yourself actually get the symptoms sometimes, so that’s why it’s important to be very aware of hand hygiene, proper eating, drinking, sleeping, so that you are as fit and well as you can be to combat any of this.”

Q: Can you be reinfected after you’ve had it?

“In theory when you’ve had a virus you have antibodies and you can’t get it again, but as we know with influenza, if you get influenza this year you can get it again next year because the actual bug has changed its spots, it’s mutated,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“So you potentially could, but hopefully we will have some kind of vaccine being developed for these kind of things.”

Q: How concerned should someone be if they’ve got an auto-immune condition?

“If you’ve got auto-immune conditions you are immuno-compromised,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“If you are on cancer treatment you are immuno-compromised.

“If you’ve got other things … breathing conditions, you are compromised, so it’s really important to double down on hand hygiene, being as fit and well as you can be, taking your medications and being away from crowds as well because that’s where you can get transmitted.”

Q: How long does the virus remain active on a surface without it being cleaned?

“Depending on the surface it can last quite some time,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“One of the things that has been, I think, quite woefully done, is the advice about cleaning up after you’ve had someone who is a risk or who is proven.

“I’ve been isolating my room for 12 to 24 hours, the advice has not been that. The advice has been to just wipe it down and keep going, and I think that needs to be reviewed.”

Q: If someone is confined to their house how isolated do they have to be? Are they allowed to share a room with a family member?

“It’s the great unknown,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“In general you’ve got to be as far away from other people as you can and you’ve got to limit the exposure to your family.”

Press PLAY below for the full segment.

Tom Elliott