Fifth Australian coronavirus case confirmed as 21-year-old UNSW student

Five people across Australia, including four in NSW and one in Victoria, have now been confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus.

Students enter the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney.

The fifth Australian case of coronavirus has been confirmed as a 21-year-old UNSW student. Source: AAP

A University of New South Wales student has been confirmed as the fifth person in Australia to have contracted the coronavirus, as the death toll in China hits 80.

NSW health authorities made the announcement on Monday afternoon after revealing on Sunday that a preliminary test had returned a positive result.

The 21-year-old woman, who has not been identified by health authorities, had recently travelled back to Sydney on a direct flight from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated.

Australia is working to keep out the deadly coronavirus, as flights from China arrive in the country
Australia is working to keep out the deadly coronavirus, as flights from China arrive in the country. Source: AAP

After developing symptoms, she presented herself to an emergency department and is now being treated in isolation at Sydney's Westmead Hospital.

A University of NSW (UNSW) spokesperson said the 21-year-old had been living in campus accommodation but had not attended any classes after arriving in Australia.

"The health and safety of all students and staff is UNSW’s highest priority," the statement read.

"UNSW will continue to review and monitor the situation and update students and staff as new information becomes available."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said all of the infections had taken place in China and there was no evidence to suggest the virus, which affects the respiratory system, had been passed between people in NSW.

Mr Hazzard urged anyone showing symptoms of an illness to treat it "carefully and cautiously" until tests for the coronavirus could be completed, but assured reporters that there was no need to panic.

"If you're showing symptoms, keep yourself in isolation, keep yourself away from other people, wear the mask if you've got one available, and make the contact [with health professionals]," he said.

Three men aged 35, 43, and 53 are also being treated for the virus in a Sydney hospital but are understood to be in a stable condition.

In Victoria, a man in his 50s is being treated at Monash Medical Centre while four of his family members are being quarantined at home.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy also said on Monday that there was still no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside of the Chinese province of Hubei, which has since been locked down, but added that it was likely more cases would be detected in Australia, including a possible positive case in Perth. 

"We have no evidence there's a risk to the Australian public. There's no human-to-human transmission that's been identified in this country," he said.

Dr Murphy rejected suggestions that passengers travelling from China be quarantined on arrival in Australia, explaining that the risk of an infected person travelling on current flights was "very low" due to the lockdown.

The death toll from the virus has reached least 80 in China, while globally there have been more than 2700 confirmed cases across more than 40 countries.

No fatalities have been reported outside of China.

The newly identified virus, believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market that was illegally selling wildlife, has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, France and Canada.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Australians in at-risk areas to follow health advice from Australian and Chinese health authorities, including avoiding major gatherings, staying away from crowds, and following strict hygiene precautions.

More than 100 Australians are currently trapped in Wuhan, many of them .

4 min read
Published 27 January 2020 at 3:21pm
By Maani Truu
Source: SBS