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Researchers believe coronavirus spreads more like flu than measles

Photo: Virus 'spreads more like flu than measles'
Doctors believe coronavirus is spread through droplets and close contact over a period of time with an infected person, and is not as infectious as measles.

Doctors trying to determine how the coronavirus is spreading say it's not as infectious as measles but it can be passed on in several ways.

Researchers are looking to other coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS and MERS to determine how this new outbreak is spreading.

Australia's deputy chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly says coronavirus is spread by close contact over a period of time and it's "virtually totally safe" to walk past someone in the street who may be infected.
It's spread by a droplet in a cough or a sneeze, similar to how influenza is passed on.

Infectious diseases physician Sanjaya Senanayake says droplets settle about one metre away, unlike airborne viruses which are more worrying because they can travel further distances.

Droplet spread also means the particles don't stay in the air for long, making infection less likely unless close contact occurs for a long period of time.

"If you're walking past someone on the street it's a fairly low risk," Associate Professor Senanayake told AAP.

"Coronavirus may not be the easiest infection to get but it can be transmitted in several ways."

It could, for example, potentially spread if a person with coronavirus stands on a street corner coughing for a while and then leaves before someone else walks past.

It could also be spread via contaminated surfaces if someone touches their nose or mouth after touching a surface that has been coughed or sneezed on by an infected person.

It could also be spread through blood, urine and faeces, Prof Senanayake said.

Surgical masks can help stop the spread of coronavirus but they have to be fitted properly and can't be worn for too long.

Associate Prof Senanayake insists masks are not necessary in Australia right now.

"If we start to get lots of cases of local transmission then things are different," he said.

Prof Kelly says coronavirus does seem to spread more easily than SARS and MERS, but isn't as infectious as measles which can be transmitted to another 12 to 18 unvaccinated people by one infected person.

"For the droplet infection it tends to be between one and two extra people which is still a concern," Prof Kelly told reporters on Thursday.

"We will continue to (see an) increase over a period but it's definitely not as transmissible or as dangerous as measles."


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