The name “coronaviruses” refers to a group of viruses that cause respiratory infections in humans. These respiratory illnesses may range from mild to severe and sometimes even lead to death. The most recently discovered member of the family is a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which has been responsible for the coronavirus disease outbreak COVID-19. The virus is called novel because, prior to its outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China on December 31, 2019, this strain had never before been seen in humans.


The coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted between humans and animals. Other members of the coronavirus family are SARS-CoV, which was transmitted to humans via cats and MERS-CoV, which came to humans via camels. An animal source for this new coronavirus is still unknown, but it is suspected that the animal came from a live-animal market in Hubei Province.

Coronavirus’s method of transmission between humans has not been fully understood by health professionals, but it is thought to be passed along through contact with fluids containing the viruses. Whenever people carrying the virus cough and sneeze, this causes fluids from their respiratory system to land on surfaces. Saliva and nasal matter may also contain the virus. While it is not certain exactly how long the virus remains alive, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that the virus may survive for “a few hours or more.”

Signs and Symptoms

According to the WHO, the main signs that a person may be infected are respiratory irritations, such as coughing and sneezing. These are usually accompanied by fevers and breathing problems, such as shortness of breath. However, more serious symptoms (like pneumonia) have resulted from infection with the coronavirus, as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and kidney failure. Some people have required hospitalization as a result of their exposure to the new coronavirus, and death has resulted from infection in a number of these cases.

It is not yet fully understood why some people only get a little sick from this virus, having only mild symptoms like a slightly runny nose, while others have a much more severe response with breathing difficulties and pneumonia. WHO advises that most of those who have died have had underlying health problems that made it easier for the coronavirus to weaken them.

More information from the World Health Organization

Be Aware

Maintain a high level of awareness about the coronavirus is important in combating it, particularly when working in a healthcare facility. The best method of preventing contraction of the virus is to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene via frequent hand washing, keeping them away from the face, and covering nose and mouth whenever coughing or sneezing. Sneezing or coughing into a flexed elbow is recommended over sneezing into the hands, which more easily touch other surfaces. Personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves are also appropriate measures of protection when used correctly.

Practice Good Hand Hygiene

Good hand hygiene involves:

  • Washing hands with soap and water
  • Using alcohol-based hand rubs

Remember: hand sanitization with alcohol-based rubs is acceptable if no visible soils are on the hand. However, when particles can be seen on the hands, washing with soap and water is best.

Further Instructions from the World Health Organization

Keep Hands Away from Eyes, Nose, and Mouth

Your hands touch a variety of surfaces that are exposed to contamination. When you use your hands to touch eyes, nose, or mouth, you may transfer viruses to surfaces of the body that they are able to breach and enter your system. Keeping hands away from these areas reduces your chances of contaminating yourself.

Who to contact if Coughing, Sneezing, Feverish, or Short of Breath

You should stay at home and practice good respiratory/hand hygiene if you have symptoms similar to those seen in patients with the new coronavirus—coughing, sneezing, fever. If you have recently travelled to China or have been in contact with someone who has travelled there, then telephone the Free Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 (international SIMs) and explain to them that you have just arrived in New Zealand from overseas.

While these symptoms can have a variety of causes, they might also be connected to severe respiratory illnesses and potentially to coronavirus. It is important to take every precaution in order to keep yourself and your neighbours healthy.

Masks: When and How to Use Them

  • Healthy persons only need to wear a mask if taking care of a person with a suspected coronavirus infection
  • If you are coughing or sneezing, you should wear a mask
  • Even if you wear a mask, you should still practice good hand hygiene—frequently use alcohol-based hand rubs or wash your hands.
  • Use and dispose of your mask in the correct way.

Using a Mask Correctly

  • Practice hand hygiene before putting on your mask
  • Cover mouth and nose fully with your mask and ensure no gaps are between your face and the mask.
  • Don’t touch the mask while you are using it. If you touch the mask, clean your hands immediately with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Replace the mask immediately if it becomes damp and never reuse it.
  • Remove the mask from behind without touching the front
  • Discard the mask immediately after taking it off, placing it in a bin with a lid. Then immediately clean hands

Keep a Healthy Social Distance

As a rule, you should keep yourself at least 1 metre (3 feet) away from other persons when in social settings. This is especially true if that person is coughing, sneezing, or has a fever. People who are infected with respiratory illnesses like the coronavirus project small droplets from their mouths and noses whenever they sneeze or cough. These droplets may contain the virus, and remaining too close to these persons may cause you to inhale the virus. Similarly, avoid touching, hugging, shaking hands or otherwise getting into direct contact with persons showing these symptoms.

Further Information from the World Health Organization