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Symptoms, vaccines, travel advice: What Kiwis need to know about coronavirus

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A case of coronavirus has now been confirmed in New Zealand. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed a person in their 60s has Covid-19. The person is in isolation and is receiving treatment at Auckland City Hospital.

According to the prime minister, the person was a citizen of New Zealand who had been to Iran and travelled back to New Zealand via Bali on Wednesday.

Ardern said New Zealand’s pandemic plan is now being fully put into place as a result of the positive result.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the outbreak and how you can protect yourself.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

According to the Ministry of Health, public health officials have begun tracing the patient’s other close contacts to ensure appropriate protection measures are in place, including on the flight involved which originated in Tehran and came via Bali.

Any traveller on the final leg of the flight, Emirates EK450 arriving Auckland on Wednesday February 26, and is concerned should contact the Covid-19 Healthline number 0800 358 5453.

After landing in Auckland the person travelled home in a private car. Their family became concerned about their condition and called Healthline.

They were advised to seek medical attention and attended Auckland City Hospital emergency department that same day. All were wearing masks on arrival. 

As a result of the individual’s symptoms and travel history they were admitted and tested. Two earlier tests were negative for Covid-19. A further test on Friday using a more specific sample proved positive.

The Ministry’s statement said the patient was in stable and improving condition in isolation, in a negative pressure room to prevent any spread of the disease.

Negative pressure rooms are used to contain airborne contaminants such as bacteria and viruses. The rooms restrict contaminated air circulating into the hospital.

The infected patients’ household contacts were in isolation as a precautionary measure. 

Public health officials have also begun tracing the patient’s other close contacts to ensure appropriate protection measures are in place, including on the flight involved which originated in Tehran, Iran and came via Bali, Indonesia.

Other close family contacts will also now be tested for Covid-19, the Ministry confirmed.

Hospital staff involved in the patient’s care are using with appropriate personal protection. District health boards have been preparing for managing cases of Covid-19.

At a media stand up on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “We have been prepared for this scenario and we are now enforcing all of the protocols we’ve long had in place for a scenario such as this.”

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Coronavirus symptoms are similar to that of the flu – coughing, a fever, and difficulty breathing, which can be a sign of possible pneumonia.

The Ministry of Health explained on its website it’s not yet known how long it takes for symptoms to present after infection, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates it is between two and 10 days.

People showing symptoms who have recently been to mainland China or been in close contact with someone confirmed to have Covid-19 should phone Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or a doctor.

ARE THERE ANY PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE?

Good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you’re unwell, are protective measures recommended by the Ministry of Health. The virus spreads like the flu and can be transmitted from person-to-person.

A spokesperson told Stuff there is limited evidence to suggest face masks are effective in protecting against the spread of the virus. For those who choose to wear one, it’s important they’re worn correctly – masks should fit snugly and fully cover your nose and mouth – and removed properly.

How to wear a mask

  • Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser
  • Place over nose, mouth and chin
  • Fit flexible nose piece over nose bridge
  • Secure on head with ties or elastic
  • Adjust to fit – secure on your head, fitting snugly around your face with no gaps
  • Avoid touching or adjusting your mask during use.

How to remove a mask

  • Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser
  • Avoid touching the front of the mask
  • If the mask has ties, untie the bottom, then top tie
  • Remove from face· discard, do not use again
  • Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser immediately.
As of Thursday, there were 82,294 confirmed cases globally, 1185 of which were new, according to WHO.

CHUNG SUNG-JUN/GETTY IMAGES

As of Thursday, there were 82,294 confirmed cases globally, 1185 of which were new, according to WHO.

WILL THE FLU SHOT PROTECT ME?

People are encouraged to get the winter flu vaccine to prevent them getting seriously ill, but health officials confirmed it wouldn’t stop people contracting Covid-19.

WHAT’S THE CURRENT INFECTION AND DEATH COUNT?

As of Thursday, there were 82,294 confirmed cases globally, 1185 of which were new, according to WHO.

Of these, 76,630 were in China, and 3664 were confirmed in 46 other countries.

There had been 2747 deaths from the virus in China and 57 deaths outside of China.

WHAT COVID-19 DOES TO YOUR BODY

The virus, similar to Sars, another coronavirus, makes breathing difficult by collecting dead cells in the airway, according to Matthew Frieman, a US virologist.

If it replicates quickly before your body can fight it off then the virus can go “berserk”. This was called a “cytokine storm”, which sends cells from the immune system into battle in the lung.

When the virus is deep into the lungs it can damage the air sacs that take in oxygen, and stiffen lung tissue as cellular damage grows.

“What makes this new virus so damaging is you’re losing lung function, and that puts a strain on every organ in your body,” Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said.

CAN YOU CATCH COVID-19 TWICE?

The Ministry of Health said it is too early to tell if people can be infected more than once, but it is watching international developments closely.

A tour guide in Japan is said to have contracted Covid-19 twice – she was confirmed to have the virus, hospitalised, discharged and confirmed to have it again, according to Japanese media.

Japanese officials believe the viruses that remained in the woman’s system multiplied, resulting in her re-infection.

IS THERE A VACCINE?

There is no vaccine for the novel coronavirus at the moment. Laboratories around the world, including in Australia, the United States, India and France, are creating vaccine candidates. 

A WHO spokesperson told Stuff vaccine research is underway so clinical trials can start in about three to four months. 

CAN I STILL TRAVEL?

Kiwi travellers are advised not to travel to mainland China. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade raised the alert to “do not travel”. This didn’t apply to Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.

New Zealanders in China are advised to leave “at the earliest opportunity”.

Safe Travel issued an alert for travel to South Korea, where a cluster of the virus had formed, advising New Zealanders to “avoid non-essential travel” to Daegu and Cheongdo. Kiwis in those cities should consider their need to stay. Travellers visiting the rest of the country are encouraged to “exercise increased caution”.

Safe Travel was constantly assessing travel advice and updating its website accordingly.

Restrictions remained in place for foreign travellers coming from or passing through mainland China. This restriction is reviewed every 48 hours and the government will decide on or before March 3 if it stays in place.

WHO is currently not recommending any specific health measures for travellers.

WHAT’S THE CURRENT INFECTION AND DEATH COUNT?

As of Thursday, there were 82,294 confirmed cases globally, 1185 of which were new, according to WHO.

Of these, 76,630 were in China, and 3664 were confirmed in 46 other countries.

There had been 2747 deaths from the virus in China and 57 deaths outside of China.

There is one case in New Zealand.

This undated electron microscope image shows the Novel Coronavirus.

NIAID-RML via AP

This undated electron microscope image shows the Novel Coronavirus.

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