Coronavirus COVID-19 and Cardiac Implications

NB: Information has been taken from the Australian Government Department of Health website as well as information released by the American College of Cardiology and is up-to-date as at the 10th March 2020. 

Heart Research Australia stresses the importance of continually checking in with the Australian Government Department of Health website for updated information as it becomes available as may cause guidance to shift.

What is a Coronavirus and COVID-19?

Coronaviruses can make humans and animals sick. Some coronaviruses can cause illness similar to the common cold and others can cause more serious diseases, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). This new coronavirus originated in Hubei Province, China and the disease outbreak is named COVID-19.

How is this coronavirus spread?

The coronavirus is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:

  • direct close contact with a person while they are infectious
  • close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes, or touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.
  • most infections are only transmitted by people when they have symptoms. These can include fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness and shortness of breath.

How can we help prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
  • cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • and if unwell, avoid contact with others.

What do I do if I develop symptoms?

If you develop symptoms (fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness or shortness of breath) within 14 days of leaving a country or region that is at higher risk for COVID-19, or within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed case, you should arrange to see your doctor for urgent assessment. Go to for the current list of high or moderate risk countries.

You should telephone the health clinic or hospital before you arrive and tell them your travel history or that you may have been in contact with a potential case of coronavirus. You must remain isolated either in your home or a healthcare setting until public health authorities inform you it is safe for you to return to your usual activities.

Cardiac Implications of Novel Coronavirus

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) released a clinical bulletin[1] on the 20th Feb 2020 addressing cardiac implications of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19, 2019-nCoV and Wuhan Coronavirus).

The key message presented was that patients with underlying cardiovascular disease may have a potential increased risk if they contract coronavirus. [2]

The bulletin highlights the importance for cardiac patients to “remain current with vaccinations, including the pneumococcal vaccine given the increased risk of secondary bacterial infection”.  The bulletin suggests patients have the “influenza vaccination to prevent another source of fever which could be initially confused with coronavirus infection.”

The ACC lists the below points regarding early cardiac implications from the case reports on Wuhan Coronavirus.[3]

  • Early case reports suggest patients with prior conditions are at higher risk for complications or mortality from COVID-19
  • 40% of hospitalised patients with confirmed COVID-19 have cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease.

Among the confirmed cases reported by the National Health Commission of China (NHX), some of the patients first went to see a doctor because of cardiovascular symptoms.  These patients presented with palpitations and chest tightness rather than with respiratory symptoms, such as fever and cough but were later diagnosed with COVID -19.

For anyone who needs another reason to stop smoking, research suggests that people who smoke are more susceptible to developing COVID-19 because they have higher levels of ACE2 receptors in the lung to which the virus binds.

It is essential for someone with heart problems to be mindful of personal hygiene and washing hands regularly especially before all meals and to regularly use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.  Stay away from anyone potentially impacted or who has recently travelled to affected areas and ensure all vaccines are up to date.  If in doubt, get checked out.

More information

For the latest advice, information and resources, go to

Call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450. 

The phone number of your state or territory public health agency is available at

If you have concerns about your health, speak to your doctor.

Heart Research Australia wants to take the opportunity to remind people to keep checking into the Australian Government Department of Health website for latest updates as this site is currently being updated daily.

Individuals need to be prepared for guidance to shift as more information becomes readily available.

[1] The bulletin was reviewed and approved by the ACC Science and Quality Oversight Committee. Seasonal Flu vs Coronavirus Infection and Mortality Rates.

[2] Mohammad Madjid, Scott D Solomon, Orly Vardeny. ACC Clinical Bulletin Cardiac Implications of Novel Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19). American College of Cardiology (ACC). Published online Feb 12, 2020. Accessed Feb 20, 2020.

[3] Chen H, Zhou M, Dong X, et al. Epidemiological and Clinical Characteristics of 99 cases of 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan, China: a descriptive study. Lancet 2020; published online Jan 29.