NSW medical worker being tested for coronavirus


A man in his 50s, who is understood to be a NSW medical officer, could be the first Australian to get coronavirus through person-to-person transmission if pathology tests show he has contracted the disease.

It is believed the worker, who is currently being treated in NSW hospital in intensive care, travelled to China some months ago but only recently started showing symptoms of COVID-19.

A NSW Health spokeswoman would not confirm the man's position or whether he was involved in treating COVID-19 patients.

"Regarding the man in his 50s who is being investigated for possible COVID-19, additional specimens were collected overnight and are being tested today to confirm whether or not he has the infection," a spokeswoman said.

"He is currently being cared for in hospital. No more personal details relating to this patient will be released at this stage."

Health authorities say COVID-19 is highly transmissible, particularly among the elderly, however as yet there no cases yet of person-to-person transmission within the Australian community.

Earlier today, NSW Health issued a statement saying a man in his 50s was "under investigation for possible COVID-19 based on preliminary laboratory results".

It said the local Public Health Unit was following up on contacts of the possible case "as a precaution" in addition to chasing contacts of the latest confirmed case.



Earlier today, NSW's fifth case of coronavirus was confirmed.

NSW Health confirmed an adult male in his 40s was diagnosed with COVID-19 following recent travel from Iran.

The agency said in a statement the man has had "relatively mild symptoms but has been admitted to Westmead Hospital".

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the previous four patients had all been discharged from hospital - three were men aged 53, 35 and 43, while one was a 21-year-old female student from the University of NSW.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has confirmed a fifth coronavirus case has been confirmed in NSW. Picture: AAP
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has confirmed a fifth coronavirus case has been confirmed in NSW. Picture: AAP

"This latest case arrived in Sydney from Iran on 22 February 2020," Dr Chant said.

"He did not develop symptoms until 24 February 2020 and was seen at a hospital emergency department and tested on 28 February."

"He was advised to be isolated at home while waiting for the test result which was confirmed positive for COVID-19 late on 29 February."

It comes after Queensland health authorities on Friday said a Gold Coast beautician who recently returned from Iran had tested positive for the disease.

Meanwhile, another NSW man in his 50s is also under investigation for possible COVID-19 based on preliminary laboratory results.

"Travellers from Iran should be particularly vigilant for symptoms as there has been a rapid increase in COVID-19 activity there in recent days," Dr Chant said.

The Morrison government will put a travel ban on people coming from Iran from Sunday due to the extensive outbreak in the Middle Eastern nation, which has recorded 388 cases of coronavirus and 34 deaths.

NSW Health said the latest confirmed case demonstrates the importance of returning travellers knowing the symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, runny nose, or shortness of breath.

"Anyone with these symptoms should isolate themselves form others and practice simple hygiene by covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow and washing their hands thoroughly," Dr Chant said.

Dr Chant and Health Minister Brad Hazzard this week revealed health authorities were preparing for a coronavirus outbreak in the midst of the flu season which is expected to hit in about eight weeks.

Australia now has 26 confirmed cases of the virus which emerged in Wuhan, a city in China's Hubei province.

The United States reported its first domestic death from the illness on Saturday in a medical facility in a Seattle suburb.

The victim was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions, according to Washington state health officials.