Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): information for health professionals

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The cause has now been identified as a novel coronavirus, which has been named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease previously called novel coronavirus is now known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

The initial cluster of cases was epidemiologically linked to a seafood market in Wuhan City, but cases have now been detected elsewhere in China and in other countries.

For up-to-date information on the number of cases and geographical locations see the World Health Organization Western Pacific outbreaks and emergencies page and the John Hopkins University online tracking dashboard page.

For the most up to date information on the Australian situation and relevant guidelines please refer to the Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources web page.

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Case definition and interim recommendations regarding surveillance, infection control and contact management

The most recent case definition can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website in the Interim advice to public health units – 2019-nCoV document.

The Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) web pages provide extensive resources including interim recommendations for surveillance, infection control and contact management.

Note: These interim recommendations are based on current evidence and may be subject to change as more information becomes available.

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Diagnosis – taking samples and laboratory testing

Use appropriate infection control precautions when taking diagnostic specimens including the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Refer to the Australian Government Department of Health fact sheet on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during clinical care of people with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection.

Collect a combined throat and deep nasal swab, preferably in viral transport medium, or sputum or tracheal aspirate in sterile container. See SA Pathology specimen collection guide (PDF 320KB)

Send specimens to SA Pathology.

Request real time respiratory viral panel PCR testing and COVID-19, and document recent travel history and/or suspicion for COVID-19.
Do not refer patients to pathology collection centres – specimens should be collected by the treating doctor or at a designated specimen collection centre.

For specialist advice and risk assessment when taking specimens, call the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) medical officer on 1300 232 272 (24 hours 7 days a week) who can provide further information regarding risk assessment.

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Diagnosis — referral for testing

SA Pathology has established a dedicated metropolitan Adelaide Domiciliary Service run by nurses for collection of specimens from patients with potential COVID-19.

This service is for General Practitioners who are unable to collect the specimen due to not having access to PPE (personal protective equipment) or appropriate facilities.

This service facilitates the collection of specimens within the patients’ home thereby reducing the requirement for further travel. The dedicated Domiciliary Service will operate 8.00am – 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

GPs should continue to first contact the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) to triage patients and obtain approval for the collection of specimens prior to the request form being sent to SA Pathology.

The request form must have a notation that CDCB has approved. If there is no such notation the collection will not progress and the form will be returned to the sender for rectification.

Once approval has been provided the process for contacting SA Pathology is as follows:

1. GP to fax request form to SA Pathology fax number: 8222 8950. Ensure the following details are recorded:

  • Patient name, DOB, home address, mobile contact number is preferable.
  • GP contact details in case we have trouble contacting patient.

2. The Domiciliary Service will then contact the SA Pathology Nurse and provide details, demographics etc.

3. Requests which come through after 4.30pm will be processed and collected the following business day.

4. If it is a locum service seeing the patient, assume there is no access to fax, therefore ring the Domiciliary Service on: 8222 3000, press 4, press 2 - this will then be picked up. If busy, please leave a message and your call will be returned.

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COVID-19 is now a controlled notifiable condition under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011. Doctors and diagnostic laboratories are required to notify the CDCB Medical Officer on call of any suspected cases on 1300 232 272 (24 hours 7 days per week).


Page last updated: 17 February 2020

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