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Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

February 13, 2020 | Uncategorised

Updated 13 February 2020

In January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed a new type of coronavirus, named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as COVID-19. There are currently no confirmed cases in New Zealand but there is a risk of COVID-19 being imported and measures are being taken to minimise the risks including screening at airports.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) have advised the risk of an ongoing outbreak in NZ remains low and is continuing to monitor the situation. MoH is the primary point of authority and reference for information. We recommend staying up to date with the information on their website: MOH COVID-19 Updates

What are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which includes the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). While investigations continue into the origin of the virus, there is evidence that 2019-nCoV can spread from person to person in the community and in health care settings.

What does COVID-19 mean for people living with MS?

The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation has advised that as this strain of the coronavirus is new, we still need to learn more about how it may affect people with MS.

Many disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for MS work by suppressing or modifying the immune system. We know that people with MS who are receiving these therapies can face an increased risk of complications related to viral infections.

If you are taking a DMT and are either exposed to COVID-19 or are confirmed to have the COVID-19 infection, please contact your neurologist or other medical professional.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The Ministry of Health advise the symptoms are similar to many other illnesses such as influenza. As such having the following symptoms is not automatically an indicator of 2019-nCoV.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever (high temperature)
  • Cough
  • Difficulty Breathing*

*Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

WHO suggests there is an incubation period of 2-10 days for symptoms to appear.

What should you do if you are feeling unwell?

If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing MOH recommend contacting Healthline on their freephone 0800 611 116. Alternatively, contact your GP or practice Nurse and they can discuss your symptoms with you.

Testing is available in NZ.

What active measures can you take to reduce the risks of the virus spreading?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advise people follow basic principles to reduce risk of the virus spreading and protect against COVID-19. These are:

  • Wash and dry hands frequently and thoroughly with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water, especially after contact with ill people or their environment
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people suffering acute respiratory infections
  • People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette
    • Maintain distance
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing
    • Wash hands
  • Keep at least 1 metre distance between yourself and others, particularly those who are coughing and sneezing
  • Practise food safety by using different chopping boards for raw meat and cooked foods and wash your hands between handling them
  • Avoid close contact with sick farm animals or wild animals

It is important to avoid contact with anyone who may have been living or travelling in an area where COVID-19 has been circulating. Get the latest updates on where there have been reported cases of COVID-19 from the World Health Organization here.


More information and keeping up to date

You can also find out the answers to some commonly asked questions about COVID-19 on the World Health Organization’s website.

We recommend staying up to date with the information on the Ministry of Health website for NZ specific information: MOH COVID-19 Updates

Find out more about COVID-19 in the short informational video, from the World Health Organization: Novel Coronovirus (COVID-19) WHO Information Video