The 2019-nCoV coronavirus has not yet reached New Zealand, but good health practice is still important, says Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ.

Coronavirus belongs to a group of viruses that include the common cold. People of all ages can be infected by coronavirus, with older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

ARFNZ Scientific Advisory Board member Dr James Fingleton says that other infections, such as colds and flu, are currently more of a risk in New Zealand than coronavirus.

"People with chronic health conditions and pregnant women are at higher risk of complications from viruses like coronavirus than others," says James. "This includes those with asthma, bronchiectasis, or COPD. Every year people end up in hospital with complications from influenza and other respiratory illnesses, and similar issues could appear with this novel outbreak.

"Protecting from common respiratory illnesses will help protect from possible infection. This includes washing your hands with soap and warm water regularly, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing. If you’re the one doing the coughing or sneezing, covering your mouth and nose is also recommended."

ARFNZ CE Letitia Harding agrees, and says that symptoms of 2019-nCoV are similar to a range of other illnesses, such as influenza, and do not necessarily mean that someone has coronavirus.

"Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties," says Letitia. "In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia and other complications.

"The Foundation will continue to update if anything changes, but right now the best way to stay safe is to stay calm."


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