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Social distancing working against COVID-19


A national online surveillance system for tracking symptoms of COVID-19 and flu in Australia and New Zealand has revealed the impact of social distancing.

In recent weekly surveys, FluTracking participants have recorded historically low respiratory and cold like symptoms. 

FluTracking Coordinator Dr Craig Dalton, from the University of Newcastle, says social distancing appears to have decreased the transmission of many different types of respiratory virus – the rate of people with cough and fever has plummeted.

“The social distancing the community has taken up leads to less opportunities to transmit virus between people, so few people are infected and fewer people get sick,” Dr Dalton says.

“The rapid social distancing by the general community may have averted a public health disaster.

“We mustn’t relax our vigilance, but these initial findings are early reassuring signs that social distancing is working.

“We have to continue with strong social distancing measures and aggressive case identification, contact tracing, and isolation as well.” 

The number of participants in the FluTracking survey has surged as people all over the country rally to contribute to the control of COVID-19 in Australia.

A further 5,000 people joined the survey in the last two weeks, while over 60,000 responses are being received in Australia each week and more than 40,000 in New Zealand.

Researchers expect the numbers to pass 120,000 in the coming weeks.

The past fortnight’s survey results recorded 48 people who had received a positive test to COVID-19, of whom 13, or 27%, reported a change in their taste or smell – a new emerging symptom of COVID-19.

This is an important symptom that should alert doctors to the possibility of COVID-19 infection.

Australians are being encouraged to join FluTracking to help track the spread of flu and COVID-19.

It takes 20 seconds per week and participants receive a weekly link to a report and map of respiratory illness activity across Australia.

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