Following the outbreak of a new virus - Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), we are asking our patients to let us known if they have travelled to mainland China in the last 14 days. This precautionary measure ensures that we are well prepared to treat anyone who may have been exposed.

The coronavirus has been reported predominately in the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China, as well as some other Chinese cities and countries, including one confirmed case in Victoria. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath. Coronavirus causes illnesses similar to the common cold. However, in some cases it can also cause serious illnesses including pneumonia.

Epworth's Chief Medical Officer Dr Luis Prado says our two emergency departments at Epworth Richmond and Epworth Geelong are able to help any patient who presents with symptoms of the virus and has either travelled to China within the last 14 days, has been in contact with a healthcare facility in China or has been with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus.

All patients booked for an elective admission are being asked if they have any virus symptoms or relevant travel history and to contact their doctors to determine the appropriate clinical management plan.

We are also asking hospital visitors to advise Epworth staff if they have any of the above symptoms or history of travel to mainland China. If they have any of these symptoms, they will be referred to their General Practitioner.

"Practicing good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence," Dr Prado advised.

More information on the novel coronavirus can be found on the government's healthdirect website.

Concerned community members can call the Department of Health and Human Service's dedicated hotline on 1800 675 398 if they develop symptoms. This hotline is serviced by Nurse-on-Call.