So you’re Covid-19 positive? Here’s what to do next

As Australia’s Covid-19 case numbers surge, severity of illness appears generally mild in most cases. Here’s what to do if you contract coronavirus.

Over Christmas and the New Year, Australia’s Covid-19 case numbers have exploded.

People have gone from not knowing anyone with the virus, to having multiple friends and family infected.

If you have Covid-19, what should you do now?

First and foremost – try not to panic.

The current dominant and highly transmissible Omicron strain is so far believed to be relatively mild for most, and while it is under extreme pressure, Australia’s health system is among the world’s best.

Further, more than 90 percent of eligible Australians are fully vaccinated, meaning while not completely immune to the disease, severity of illness is much less.

If at any stage you or someone you are caring for becomes seriously ill, seek emergency medical treatment and call 000.

Hospitals are busy but will prioritise patients with severe symptoms.

How to confirm your Covid-19 diagnosis

If you’re experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, it is recommended you get a test to confirm your diagnosis.

Official Covid-19 diagnosis is obtained via a PCR test conducted free of charge in a medical clinic or state-run testing facility.

If you are unable to attend, government services may be able to visit you.

Unfortunately, due to demand, accessing tests is currently an issue in most states, but you can find information relevant to your location and situation online.

You can use a rapid antigen test (RAT) at home, but they are in short supply and less accurate than a PCR test.

A new website, Find a RAT, by Melbourne-based software developer Matt Hayward is helping Aussies locate rapid antigen tests near them.

It is important to ensure the RAT you’re buying is approved for use by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration as these have been assessed for achieving a minimum sensitivity of 80 per cent.

RATs are now available at testing facilities and are free for concession holders, according to a statement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

He also said a confirmation PCR test is no longer required if you’ve tested positive with a RAT.

If your PCR is positive, you will be told what to do next and possibly asked about contact tracing.

What happens after your positive Covid-19 diagnosis?

Once diagnosed, the key thing you’ll need to do is isolate to stop the virus spreading to other people.

Check the isolation period prescribed by your state or territory government.

People you live with may also need to isolate until they have a test result.

Close contacts are now classified as someone who has spent four hours or more with a confirmed case in a household or household-like setting.

Where possible, minimise contact with them to prevent further spread.

You can transmit Covid-19 regardless of whether you have symptoms.

People are generally considered infectious from 48 hours before symptoms develop until they meet criteria for release from isolation.

How do I manage my Covid-19 symptoms?

Mild Covid-19 symptoms can be treated at home as you would a mild seasonal flu with rest, paracetamol or ibuprofen as required, fluids, and, if possible, isolating from other household members, says Werribee-based GP Dr Joe Garra.

“There is no point moving out as they must isolate anyway,” Dr Garra says.

Dr Garra says most current cases in fully vaccinated people are mild, with those affected recovering within a few days.

He suggests people struggling to access a test manage their symptoms the same way.

“If people are unable to access a test, stay home for seven days, including household contacts,” Dr Garra says.

“Contacts should try and do a RAT at Day 7 – supplies should be coming into stores soon.”

People with moderate to severe Covid-19 symptoms may need hospital treatment with corticosteroids, antivirals, and other drugs, depending on severity.

“(Treatment) needs to be given at hospital, and can be arranged via a GP,” Dr Garra says.

Dr Garra recommends people contact their doctor if they are becoming more unwell.

“It’s safest to ring a GP and ask their advice,” he says.

All states and territories offer advice on how to manage Covid-19.

Victoria’s checklist includes:

  • Step 1: Focus on your health and get help if you need it.
  • Step 2: Immediately isolate for 7 days
  • Step 3: Tell your household and household-like contacts – they must isolate for 7 days
  • Step 4: Tell your social contacts to get tested if they have symptoms
  • Step 5: Tell your workplace and/or education facility

To find a Covid-19 testing clinic in your area:

Written by Cheryl Critchley.