COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. An outbreak of COVID-19 started in Hubei Province in China in December 2019 and subsequently spread to many other countries worldwide. The World Health Organization declared a COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March 2020.
COVID-19 is a notifiable condition under the ACT Public Health Act 1997. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 must be reported to the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Section as soon as practicable by calling (02) 5124 9213 during business hours or (02) 9962 4155 after hours.
Testing criteria in the ACT:
Test all patients who meet the suspect case definition:
Fever (≥37.5°C) or history of fever (e.g. night sweats, chills) OR acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) OR loss of sense of smell or taste
One of the following epidemiological risk factors in the 14 days prior to illness onset:
- Close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case; OR
- International travel, including cruise ship passengers and crew; in the 14 days prior to illness onset; OR
- Interstate travel (this does not include people who live in NSW close to the ACT and regularly travel to the ACT); OR
- Healthcare, aged or residential care workers and staff with direct patient contact.
In addition to the suspect case definition, test anyone who meets the following clinical criteria:
- Fever (≥37.5°C) or history of fever (e.g. night sweat, chills) in the absence of a clear alternative cause, such as a urinary tract infection or cellulitis
- Acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough, sore throat).
- Sudden onset of loss of sense of smell or taste
Patients with sudden onset of runny nose, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite can be tested for COVID-19 in the absence of fever or respiratory symptoms if no alternative cause for these symptoms is apparent, at the discretion of the treating clinician.
Testing of asymptomatic individuals is not generally recommended. However, ACT Health strongly recommends that individuals in quarantine undergo “exit testing” on day 10-12 of their quarantine period, even if asymptomatic. In addition, individuals who attended specific venues in NSW on specific dates are asked to get tested for COVID-19 even if asymptomatic, in line with NSW Health advice.