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.
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.
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.
Prohibition on the use of Point of Care Serology Tests
General Practitioners with access to appropriate PPE can collect swabs in their rooms. The SA Pathology specimen collection guide (PDF 320KB) describes the swab collection procedure. 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. General Practitioners do not need authorisation from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) to perform testing.
SA Pathology has also 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 or appropriate facilities. This service facilitates the collection of specimens within the patients’ home. Use of the Domiciliary Service requires approval from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB). After approval, patients require a referral from their General Practitioner to access this service. Further details are available at SA Pathology.
A temporary Emergency Supply provision will enable people to access their essential medicines from their pharmacist without a prescription, in the event they have not been able to obtain a prescription for example where there may be reduced access to medical services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For detailed information about the Emergency Supply provision, read:
Telehealth and medicines (prescribing and dispensing)
The Commonwealth Government has made temporary changes to medicines regulation to ensure Australians can continue to access the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines they need, as the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic continues. One of these measures relates to the supply of a Schedule 4 (S4) medicine using an image based prescription.
To support this measure, a temporary Exemption has been made in South Australia to enable supply of S4 medicines using an image based prescription.
COVID-19 is now a controlled notifiable condition under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011. Doctors and diagnostic laboratories are required to notify suspected and confirmed cases can be notified online.
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