Protect Kiwis most at risk

Older people are more vulnerable to developing complications from the virus.

Self-isolation due to coronavirus is for the protection of others as well as yourself, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ says.

The coronavirus outbreak, also known as COVID-19 and 2019-nCoV, is a viral respiratory infection that has been officially classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. People of all ages can be infected by coronavirus, but people who are older, immunocompromised, or with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma are more vulnerable to developing complications from the virus.

The main signs of infection are a moderate to severe cough, along with breathing difficulties and fever. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death.

Dr James Fingleton, respiratory physician and ARFNZ Scientific Advisory Board member, says that while symptoms of COVID-19 are shared with a range of other illnesses, such as influenza, it is worth seeking medical advice if you think you may have contracted the virus.

“The important thing is not to panic, or flood into doctor’s offices or emergency rooms,” Fingleton says. “This risks exposing others to the virus if you do have it, and risks infecting you if you don’t.

“The people at most risk of severe health impacts are those with chronic health conditions. This includes those with asthma, bronchiectasis, or COPD, or people with compromised immune systems. If you fall into one of these categories and think you may have coronavirus, you should seek medical attention, but just showing up at the ED will do more harm than good.

“Good hygiene practices will help protect against possible coronavirus infection. Make sure you cleanse your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as much as possible. Avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing, is advisable. If you’re the one doing the coughing or sneezing, covering your mouth and nose is also recommended,” Fingleton says.

“Most important of all, if you think you may have coronavirus, take every precaution you can not to infect others. Self-isolation may seem extreme, but it is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others from this pandemic while you seek medical advice. Call Healthline on the dedicated COVID-19 number: 0800 358 5453, or ring your GP surgery before you attend.”