Coronavirus - what you need to know

Hand washing

Know how to protect yourself against viruses and infections! In January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed a new type of coronavirus, (2019-nCoV) which starts with a fever and cough, and leads to severe respiratory symptoms.

While there are no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in New Zealand, it could arrive in New Zealand at any time. It's important to remember simple actions that you can do to protect your health, and the health of those around you. Hand washing is a great way to prevent many skin, gastro, and respiratory infections.

The Hauora Tairāwhiti Coronavirus Preparedness group, including representatives from nursing, public health, infection control, communications and emergency management, are maintaining a close watch on overseas developments, This is in line with recommendations from the Ministry of Health and includes an Isolation and Quarantine Plan.

Advice for health professionals and general updates on coronavirus can be found on the Ministry of Health website.(external link)

If you have concerns about your health or the health of others please call the national Coronovirus hotline on 0800 358 5453

Hauora Tairawhiti Medical Officer of Health Doctor Osman Mansoor said only people living or travelling in an area where the 2019-nCoV virus was circulating could be at risk of infection.

“At present, 2019-nCoV is circulating in China where the vast majority of people infected have been reported.”

Dr Mansoor said infection with 2019-nCoV could cause symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever — as was the case with most respiratory illnesses.

“It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal — currently 2 percent of all cases.”

Dr Mansoor said because the virus did not spread through the air, a medical face mask was of no value unless there was close contact with an infectious person.

“You can also infect yourself from a mask if there was any virus on it by touching it and then touching your face. This is why hand-washing with soap is vital. Your hand could touch a droplet on a surface.

“Hand-washing with soap and water has been shown to prevent diarrhoea, skin infections and pneumonia, and is the single most important preventive action that people can take.

“To become infected, you have to be exposed to the virus, which usually requires close contact. The virus spreads from respiratory secretions. The virus is in large droplets that cannot stay in the air.

“It can be spread by a cough or sneeze, contact with an object or surface with viral particles on it (then touching your mouth, nose or eyes), or close personal contact.

Dr Mansoor said people usually had to be closer than one metre for at least an hour to have a good chance of spreading it.

“To be safe, we are using two metres and 15 minutes.

“If you do have a fever or cough, stay home and don't spread one of the 200-plus bugs that can cause respiratory infections, including the new virus.

“If you do cough, do so in the crook of your elbow so that your hands do not become infected and potentially infect others.

“Most at risk are older people while people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends New Zealanders do not travel to any part of mainland China.

In order to reduce the chances of 2019-nCoV spreading within New Zealand, additional border measures have been implemented.

Those measures include denying entry to New Zealand to anyone who has left or transited through mainland China from February 2, 2020, with the exception of New Zealand citizens, including those from the three Countries of the Realm — Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands — permanent residents and their immediate family, and aircrews who have been using appropriate personal protective equipment.

More information on the coronavirus in Tairawhiti is linked here.

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