NSW Health has comprehensive information, updates and extensive processes to carefully assess and manage patients with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Protective measures are also in place to prevent the virus from spreading.
NSW Health COVID-19 for the latest information.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include
fever, cough, sore/scratchy throat and shortness of breath.
Other reported symptoms of COVID-19 include
loss of smell, loss of taste, runny nose, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting and loss of appetite.
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.
For more information see:
Frequently asked questions – About COVID-19: What are the symptoms?
If your symptoms are severe or of an urgent nature, call 000.
Other options for seeking medical advice include:
It is very important that you call the clinic ahead to discuss any symptoms (no matter how mild) and if you have been tested before presenting to the hospital or haematology outpatient clinic.
Samples for testing can be taken:
A number of COVID-19 specific clinics have been set-up throughout the state. For an up-to-date list please refer to
Patients with cancer are thought to be at higher risk than the general population of being infected with COVID-19. Those having active treatment for cancer are possibly at higher risk than those who are in remission. Patients who are in the first year after stem cell transplantation or cellular therapy could be also be at higher risk for complications if they get infected with COVID-19. Those who are beyond one year after transplantation and are still considered to have lower immunity (e.g. on steroids/ IVIg) and may remain at an elevated risk for complications.
Risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection include age (above 60 years for men, above 70 years for women), diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, chronic lung disease and heart disease. Other vulnerable groups include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, pregnant women, very young children and babies.
If family members develop an illness, it is important that they and you wash hands frequently. Keep surfaces clean and maintain distance from them if possible (e.g. sleep in different rooms, don't eat at a common table, use separate bathrooms where possible etc.) to minimize the risk of infection. We empathize that this can be very difficult for families with children - however, having a candid discussion with the family about recommended preventive steps could be helpful.
If you have symptoms of a cold — cough, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath — please wear a surgical mask (especially when in a clinic or a public place) to limit spread to others. For healthy individuals without any symptoms, wearing a mask in public just to protect yourself from coronavirus infection is not currently recommended due to limited mask availability.
We are still learning how this virus may impact those who have cancer. So far, data from China suggests that patients with cancer have a higher risk of complications.
Please discuss this with your treating team as the best timing for your treatment would depend on your individual circumstances. Generally speaking, if you have no symptoms, feel well and have had no contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, the treatment may be able to continue without interruption as determined by your doctor. However, there may be other factors including the capacity of the hospital and availability of key departments involved in your care (e.g. intensive care beds) which may influence whether your treatment is able to proceed. If your treatment needs to be rescheduled you will be advised by your doctor.
The BMT+CT Network recommends all recipients (autologous or allogeneic) receiving a stem cell transplant are screened and tested for COVID-19. Discuss with your treating doctor or nurse the best timing for this to occur.
Donors are initially screened for COVID-19 risk by a questionnaire as part of the work-up process.
The BMT+CT Network also recommends routine testing of all NSW donors for allogeneic transplants and where possible overseas and interstate donors for COVID-19. Testing should done in a way that ensures that the results are back prior to the recipient (patient) starting conditioning. It is recommended donors self-isolate for at least 14 days prior to donation to avoid the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Criteria for testing is frequently being updated to reflect the rapidly changing situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most updated COVID-19 testing recommendations, please visit the
Frequently Asked Questions.
It is important for your health that you receive regular follow-up from your treating team and there are many options other than attending in person at hospital. Your treating team will be conducting remote consultations (phone/video) where possible. In some cases you will need to see your treating doctor in person and you will be contacted by the treating team if this is required.
We kindly ask hospital patients and their families to limit visitors (please check hospital/ ward requirements) to reduce transmission of the virus. Visitors must perform proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette as an extra precautionary measure to protect yourself, our staff and our other patients. We also remind people not to visit if unwell. We know this restriction can be challenging and we understand each family’s situation is different. For exceptional circumstances, we encourage families to speak to their family member's nursing team for further advice.
Please do not visit if:
Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette are two terms that you may have heard of when you have heard about how to reduce your risk of COVID-19. This refers to washing your hands properly and often, and using proper sneezing and coughing practices (covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or coughing or sneezing into your upper sleeve and elbow).
If you are considered at greater risk of severe COVID-19 disease you should work your employer to reduce your risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
It is most likely that this virus will be circulating in the community for some time, increasing the chances of infection. However, by washing your hands frequently, regularly disinfecting high touch areas in your home, physical distancing (including of family members if they are ill) and avoiding travel and crowded places, you can minimize the chances of contracting COVID-19. We also have a strong team of supportive care experts who can provide support as needed. Please see the resources section for organisations that provide support.
At this point, there is no vaccine against COVID-19 but significant research has gone into developing a vaccine.
BMT patients will be routinely given a post- transplant vaccine schedule 6 months after transplant or when their haematologist deems appropriate. As is the case for all our patients we recommend vaccination for influenza (for both the patient and family members/caregivers) — it is still circulating in the community and it is also a major cause of illness in patients with compromised immune systems.
Please note: You can be immunised for influenza even if you are have not yet reached 6 months post-transplant – please ask your GP to liaise with your treating doctor to discuss best timing.
BMT patients are eligible to receive flu vaccinations free of charge under the
National Immunisation Programme (NIP)
There are many different types and brands of flu vaccines available. This
Australian Government website has updated information for you and GP regarding which flu vaccine would be best suitable for you. Please discuss with your GP or treating team.
If you have a smartphone, download the Australian Government “Coronavirus Australia” app or join the Coronavirus
What’s App group for up to date information and advice. Refer to
Resources for additional guidance.
Patients may have fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and other symptoms. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress. Less common symptoms also include headaches, extreme fatigue, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort without any respiratory symptoms or fever.
The first symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza (flu) infections are often very similar. They both cause fever and similar respiratory symptoms, which can range from mild through to severe disease, and sometimes can be fatal. Both viruses are also passed on in the same way, by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with hands, surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus.
As a result, the same public health measures, such as hand hygiene (hand washing), good respiratory etiquette (coughing into your elbow or into a tissue and immediately disposing of the tissue) and good household cleaning are important actions to prevent both infections.
The speed of transmission is an important difference between the two viruses. Influenza typically has a shorter incubation period (the time from infection to appearance of symptoms) than COVID-19, which is up to 14 days. The proportion of people with severe disease also appears to be higher for COVID-19 than influenza. While most people have mild symptoms, approximately 15% of people have severe infections and 5% require intensive care in a hospital ICU.
Other practical tips for managing your health during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Hospital reminder: We request all patients and family members to be calm, kind, patient and courteous to all hospital employees at all times, especially in this stressful and difficult health crisis when a lot of rapid changes are needed to counter and manage the disease. Abusive and aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated.
Dr Nigel Lyons, Deputy Secretary, Health System Strategy and Planning.