Update: Novel Coronavirus

Thursday 30 January 2020

Coronavirus Update - image.jpg

Been to an affected area? 

If you have recently travelled to an area affected by 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), or been in contact with someone diagnosed with 2019-nCoV, and you start experiencing mild symptoms, stay home and call Healthline for advice: 0800 611 116 (interpreters are available).

If your symptoms are severe – such as fever and difficulty breathing – arrange to see a doctor, letting them know your travel history in advance.

If you haven’t recently travelled to a region with 2019-nCoV, or been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with 2019-nCoV, you are unlikely to be at risk. If you do start experiencing symptoms, it is likely to be another common respiratory illness.

As it is currently winter in the Northern Hemisphere, respiratory illnesses (such as colds and influenza) are expected among those leaving the region. Stay home until you feel better and call Healthline for advice: 0800 611 116. Healthline has interpreters available on request. If your symptoms are severe, arrange to see a doctor. 

For more information go to the Ministry of Health website.

Are there currently cases in New Zealand?

There are no confirmed cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in New Zealand to date but the likelihood of a case coming in to New Zealand is high. The risk of an ongoing outbreak in New Zealand remains low, but the Ministry of Health is monitoring the situation closely. If any public health measures are needed for this virus, the Ministry of Health will advise and Auckland Regional Public Health Service will take the relevant steps in the Auckland region. 

What can I do to protect myself?

As with other respiratory illnesses, it’s important to follow basic hand and respiratory hygiene measures to reduce the risk of infection: 

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering acute respiratory infections
  • Frequently wash hands, especially after contact with ill people or their environment
  • Avoid close contact with sick live farm animals or wild animals

People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette:

  • Maintain distance from others
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or cough/sneeze into your elbow
  • Wash hands 

If you are planning on travelling overseas, and are worried you may be going to an area affected by the virus, check the government’s safetravel.govt.nz website for the latest travel advisories before you go. Currently, for example, the advice is not to travel to Hubei Province.

As always, travellers who become sick within a month of their arrival in New Zealand are encouraged to seek medical advice by phoning Healthline (0800 611 116) or seeing a doctor. It is important to mention recent travel to areas affected by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and/or any known contact with someone diagnosed with 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Is there treatment for 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

There is no specific treatment for disease caused by 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). However, many of the symptoms can be treated based on the patient’s clinical condition - for example, breathing support for people with breathing problems. Supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective. Infection with 2019-nCoV can increase the risk of developing pneumonia. Pneumonia requires urgent medical attention and can be treated. As this is a new virus, there is currently no vaccine available. 

Can coronaviruses be transmitted from person to person?

Yes, some coronaviruses can be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, for example, in a household.

What is the level of risk for New Zealand? 

The Ministry of Health advice is that the likelihood of importing a case is high, but the risk of an ongoing outbreak remains low. See the Ministry of Health website for more information.

How is the risk level decided?

Various factors are taken into account, including the number of cases, the speed at which new cases are being identified and other information about the virus such as how easily it spreads from person to person. 

What is being done to prevent cases in New Zealand?

The World Health Organization does not recommend border screening for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), and there are currently no travel restrictions at the New Zealand border related to this outbreak. Information about the steps the Ministry of Health is taking is available on their website.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is supporting the Ministry’s activities in Auckland; ARPHS staff are meeting flights from mainland China and providing handwritten advice to disembarking passengers. Staff will take the temperatures of anyone who is feeling unwell and anyone with a temperature higher than 38 degrees Celsius will be referred for appropriate assessment. This is also occurring in Christchurch. 

As always, travellers who become sick within a month of their arrival in New Zealand are encouraged to seek medical advice by contacting Healthline (0800 611 116) or a doctor.

It is important to mention recent travel to regions affected by 2019-n-CoV and/or any known contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

What is the incubation period of 2019-nCoV?

Based on the characteristics of other coronaviruses, it is likely to be between two and 14 days.

What is being done to manage the number of international students who will be returning to New Zealand soon? 

Advice for the education sector is available on the Ministry of Education’s website here

What advice is there for schools and Early Learning Services?

Advice for the education sector is available on the Ministry of Education’s website here.

Is there testing available for 2019 Novel Coronavirus? 

If a case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is suspected, New Zealand has systems in place to test for the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). 

New Zealand laboratories should be ready to test for the novel coronavirus by later this week (end of January). Until then, arrangements are in place so that samples can be sent to Australia for testing.

How many confirmed cases have there been globally?

The latest international information is available via the Situation Reports on the World Health Organization website: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports.

I am a GP, where can I find more clinical information?

The latest Ministry of Health information for primary care is available in the Advice for health professionals section of the Ministry’s Novel coronavirus webpage.

I will be travelling overseas soon and am worried about 2019 Novel Coronavirus? What precautions should I take?

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers but is continuing to review the situation. WHO advises people follow the basic principles to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infection. These are:

  • avoid close contact with people suffering acute respiratory infections
  • wash hands frequently, especially after contact with ill people or their environment
  • avoid close contact with sick farm animals or wild animals

People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette:

  • maintain distance
  • cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing
  • wash hands.

You should also check the government’s safetravel.govt.nz website for the latest travel advisories before you leave New Zealand. Currently, for example, the advice is not to travel to Hubei Province. 

As always, travellers who become sick within a month of their arrival in New Zealand are encouraged to seek medical advice by phoning Healthline (0800 611 116) or seeing a doctor. It is important to mention recent travel to areas affected by the Novel coronavirus and/or any known contact with someone with severe acute respiratory illness who has been in an affected area.

Is Auckland prepared for cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

The Auckland region’s three District Health Boards, their hospitals, and Auckland Regional Public Health Service have infection prevention and control measures for staff, patients, and the public. These will be employed as appropriate. Healthcare professionals are receiving advice as it comes to hand and have previously planned and prepared for similar viruses, such as the SARS virus in 2003, which was also caused by a coronavirus. 

I’ve recently travelled to a country affected by 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Am I at risk?

If you have recently travelled to an area affected by 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), or been in contact with someone diagnosed with 2019-nCoV, and you start experiencing mild symptoms, stay home and call Healthline for advice: 0800 611 116 (interpreters are available). If your symptoms are severe – such as fever and difficulty breathing – arrange to see a doctor, letting them know your travel history in advance.

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