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All Queensland doctors on lookout for potential coronavirus carriers

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said all doctors in the state had been made aware of the issue and were on the lookout for potential carriers of the disease.

“There are a lot of Chinese [people] who do travel between Australia and China, particularly as we head into the Chinese New Year period,” Dr Young said.

“So the advice is that anyone who travels to Wuhan and comes back and is unwell, for them to go and see their GP or emergency department, and to isolate themselves.”

Screening for coronavirus is happening at airports around the world, including in Wuhan.

Screening for coronavirus is happening at airports around the world, including in Wuhan.Credit:AP

Griffith University infectious diseases expert Professor Nigel McMillan said that was a “commonsense” approach and the best measure to put in place given the state of the outbreak globally.

“The good thing about this is we know about it and we’re talking about it, so surveillance and public health measures are working,” Professor McMillan said.

“The measures taken with this person who’s come to Brisbane are really sensible, because you don’t want that virus spreading around.”

He said Australia was “very well placed” to deal with infectious disease outbreaks, with a lot of work put into public awareness and disease surveillance.

“We won’t have a situation where we have hundreds of patients overwhelming our hospital system, because we would have isolated them early and let the illness pass, hopefully with an unremarkable resolution,” he said.

Four people have died in China after contracting the virus, which appears to have been spread by animals at livestock markets before jumping to humans.

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There have been 222 confirmed cases of the virus so far, mostly in China but also in Japan and Thailand, since it was first detected in December.

Coronavirus ranges in severity from causing a cold – 10 per cent of all colds in Australia are caused by a coronavirus – to being life-threatening.

The strains of coronavirus that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle-East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are considered the most dangerous forms of the disease, with SARS responsible for nearly 800 deaths.

In the case of SARS, there was a delay in getting information out about the outbreak in the early 2000s, with the number of deaths dropping rapidly once countries around the world mobilised to fight its spread.

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Doctors can conduct broad tests for coronavirus but don’t yet have specific tests for the current strain.

However Australian doctors hope to get the updated test information from the World Health Organisation in the next few days.

In the meantime, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, said authorities would monitor incoming flights from Wuhan direct to Sydney.

“No international travellers have yet been confirmed as having this coronavirus in Australia and we already have well-established existing biosecurity measures at the border,” Professor Murphy said.

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