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What is COVID-19? (Coronavirus)

COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus that can affect your lungs and airways.


Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which cause illnesses such as the common cold.


The most recent diseases caused by it include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)


On 7 January 2020, China confirmed COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).


It had not previously been detected in humans or animals. 

How does COVID-19 spread?

Like the flu, COVID-19 is spread from person to person. Our understanding of how it spreads is based on evidence from New Zealand and internationally, and we monitor new information closely.


Scientific evidence confirms COVID-19 is spread by droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets containing the virus spread a short distance and can settle on surrounding surfaces.


COVID-19 is mostly spread because of close contact with people with the virus who have symptoms. You may also get infected if you touch surfaces or objects with droplets and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.


That’s why it’s important to use good hand hygiene, practise physical distancing if you don’t know someone and stay home if you’re unwell.


This includes regularly washing and drying your hands and coughing or sneezing into a disposable tissue or into your elbow. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to common illnesses such as a cold or influenza. You may have one or more of the following:


A cough, a high temperature (at least 38˚C), shortness of breath, a sore throat, sneezing and runny nose or a temporary loss of smell.


Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.


Symptoms can take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected.


The virus can be passed onto others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.


If you have these symptoms call the New Zealand Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or your doctor immediately.

How does COVID-19 get treated?

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Most people will be able to get better at home in isolation to avoid others from getting it. More severe cases may need medical care in the hospital.


Once a person is infected with COVID-19, their body will usually produce cells (antibodies) that ‘remember’ the virus. We assume these antibodies give the person immunity from the virus but it is not currently clear how long immunity lasts. 


As of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to COVID-19 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.

Find out more information about COVID-19:

Visit the Government Health website or Unite Against COVID-19 website.


Information provided on the thisquality website may not be completely accurate. thisquality encourages readers to visit the official Government sources for full in-depth information about COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

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