Chief doctor has a warning for the elderly

QUEENSLANDERS are being warned against visiting elderly friends and relatives if they have as much as a sniffle amid grave fears for the aged during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said while most people who developed COVID-19 would get a "very, very mild disease", the elderly would fare much worse.

"There are some groups in our society that I don't want to get infected because they will not get mild disease, they'll get more serious disease," Dr Young said.


Aged care generic seniors elderly.
Aged care generic seniors elderly.

"It's really older people, particularly over the age of 80, so for everyone, they really shouldn't be visiting people who are over the age of 80, or people over the age of 60 with chronic disease, if they've got even a sniffle.

"This is a time ... to pick up the phone and talk to your elderly relatives instead of going to an aged care facility."

Death rates for COVID-19 in people aged 60-69 are 3.6 per cent, jumping to eight per cent for those in their 70s and 14.8 per cent for people aged 80 and older.

All three Australian deaths so far from COVID-19 have been in the elderly - a 78-year-old man from Perth and two Sydney nursing home residents, a man in his 80s and a woman aged 95.

Dr Young said while young children did not fare well when infected with the flu, they were highly resilient when diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

She also said pregnant women did not appear to be at a higher risk than other people their age when diagnosed with COVID-19.

"Pregnant women are getting the disease at the same rate and the same degree of complications," Dr Young said.

"The groups that I'm really worried about are those people over age 60 with comorbidities, so hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and of course, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, because they have so many risk factors."



Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young with Health Minister Steven Miles. Photo: Dan Peled.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young with Health Minister Steven Miles. Photo: Dan Peled.

Dr Young called on every Queenslander to play their part in containing the spread of coronavirus in the state.

Queensland is yet to have any cases of community transmission of COVID-19 - when someone has developed the infection without health authorities being able to track down where they have acquired it.

"We've had 20 cases that we know about," Dr Young said. We've responded very well to those, the community has responded brilliantly," she said.

"They've come forward and we're testing. The longer that we can do that, the longer we can prevent transmission to those vulnerable people. It's just really important that we continue to find those cases as early in their disease as they possibly can.

"We are going to see more. If we act promptly every single time, we'll be able to slow that down and minimise the impact on our community."