Retired virologist Sue Rodger-Withers says she would love to be back in the mix and working alongside researchers to find answers and treatment for the management of COVID-19.
The Port Macquarie resident previously worked at Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital and has conducted extensive research at Melbourne University.
Her work contributed to the discovery of the Rotavirus, a common cause of viral gastroenteritis.
Ms Rodger-Withers said she's fascinated by the natural history of how viruses emerge.
"Sixty or 70 per cent of viruses which impact humans are from contact with animals," she said.
If Ms Rodger-Withers was back working in the laboratory today she would be involved in contact tracing of the virus and working to discover how it had evolved.
Impact of contracting COVID-19
Ms Rodger-Withers wants to warn people about the potential for coronavirus to have long term consequences on their health.
She said a lot of people might believe the coronavirus is just a common cold or a bad case of the flu.
However, recent investigations have shown people may suffer permanent lung damage after contracting the virus.
Ms Rodger-Withers compared COVID-19 to SARS, which she labelled as having similar properties to each other.
"People had reduced lung capacity three years after they contracted SARS," she said.
It's hard to say what the long term impacts of contracting COVID-19 will be, given the virus hasn't been in the community for a long period of time.
Ms Rodger-Withers said it's possible for people to have health complications such as cardiac damage and issues associated with being put on a ventilator.
Ms Rodger-Withers worked in close contact with many infectious strains of viruses but never took risks to get the answers she needed to.
"If we needed to we used a high security laboratory at the hospital," she said.
There were times when Ms Rodger-Withers would undertake a biopsy on a brain, where it was suspected it might have been the human equivalent of mad cow disease.
"You'd go in with personal protective equipment and use laboratory equipment for additional security," she said.
Ms Rodger-Withers said accidents do happen but she was lucky not to have been involved in any.
Frontline workers and employees from a number of different industries have taken to wearing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Rodger-Withers said education is key to prevent contamination of the mask wearer and others.
"PPE is really great but you have to know how to use it," she said.
Ms Rodger-Withers voiced concerns on some industries where employees have had minimal training on the use of PPE.
"They've now been thrust into frontline roles or primary roles in infection control measures," she said.
Ms Rodger-Withers emphasised lockdown measures are important even if the economy does take a hit.
"If you don't impose them then we're going to be looking at a situation like in Spain, Italy or America where you have hospitals out of control," she said.
"The intensive care units are full and the wards are at capacity.
"There is nowhere to put people."
Ms Rodger-Withers said many frontline workers have died after contracting COVID-19.
"When you lose a lot of frontline workers you can't replace them overnight."
Ms Rodger-Withers is surprised there are no COVID-19 cases in Port Macquarie, given the rising numbers of cases in the rest of the state.
However, Ms Rodger-Withers said she has complete trust in the expertise of health professionals who are informing the politicians.
COVID-19 testing clinics are located across the Mid North Coast at Port Macquarie, Wauchope, Bellingen, Nambucca Heads, South West Rocks, Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga, Kempsey and Laurieton.
NSW Health is urging anyone feeling unwell, even with the mildest of symptoms to self-isolate from others and come forward for COVID-19 testing.
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore/scratchy throat, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell.
People have been asked to call the COVID-19 hotline on 1300 001 956 if they have any questions.
The community is also urged to remember to observe physical distancing, practice good hand hygiene and stay at home if they're unwell.
For more information please visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19
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