Common human coronaviruses usually only cause mild to moderate respiratory tract illnesses, such as the common cold. On rare occasions, new coronaviruses emerge. These may cause outbreaks and serious illness.
Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses that include viruses known to cause illness in animals. Sometimes these infections can be passed to humans.
Most people will get infected with one or more of the common human coronaviruses in their lifetime. Young children are most likely to get infected.
Coronavirus usually causes a mild disease, such as the common cold, that does not require specific treatment.
In rare cases, coronaviruses can cause serious outbreaks. Coronaviruses have been responsible for outbreaks such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and the current novel coronavirus (oringally called 2019-nCoV and now officially called Covid-19).
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection.
Good personal hygiene, care with preparing meat and eggs and avoiding people with respiratory illness can reduce your chances of getting coronavirus.
Coronavirus is a type of virus that can affect humans and animals. It's named coronavirus because the virus has crown-like spikes on its surface ('corona' meaning crown).
There a variety of different types of coronavirus and most people will get infected with one or more of the common human coronaviruses in their lifetime. It usually only causes a mild disease such as the common cold. Young children are most likely to get infected.
Coronavirus infection is much more common in animals than in humans. Sometimes, the coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and infect humans becoming a new human coronavirus.
What are the symptoms of human coronavirus infection?
Most common types of human coronavirus usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory-tract illnesses, like the common cold. These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. Symptoms may include:
a general feeling of being unwell.
Other types of coronavirus can cause more severe illness. Infants, older people and people with medical conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease or weakened immune systems are most at risk of getting more severe problems such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
Coronaviruses have been responsible for outbreaks such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and the current novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Novel coronavirus (Covid-19) is responsible for the 2019/2020 outbreak, which started in the city of Wuhan in China. The virus has caused a range of symptoms from mild ones similar to a cold to more severe pneumonia-like symptoms. Read more about the Covid-19 outbreak.
MERS symptoms usually include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which often worsens to pneumonia. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died. MERS cases continue to occur, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula. Read more about MERS.
SARS symptoms often included fever, chills and body aches, which usually progressed to pneumonia. No human cases of SARS have been reported anywhere in the world since 2004. Read more about SARS.
How is human coronavirus infection spread?
Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
the air by coughing and sneezing
close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
In New Zealand, people usually get infected with common human coronaviruses in autumn and winter. However, you can get infected at any time of the year.
Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. This is often how outbreaks occur.
How is human coronavirus infection treated?
There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own. However, you can do some things to relieve your symptoms:
take pain and fever medications
use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough.
If you are mildly sick, drink plenty of liquids and stay home and rest. If you are concerned about your symptoms, see your healthcare provider.
How can I prevent the spread of the virus?
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by doing the following:
stay home while you are sick
avoid close contact with others
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the rubbish bin
wash your hands clean and disinfect objects and surfaces after you have coughed or sneezed.
How can I protect myself?
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:
wash your hands regularly with soap and water
cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
thoroughly cook meat and eggs
avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Coronavirus World Health Organization, Switzerland, 2020
Dr Li-Wern Yim is a travel doctor with a background in general practice. She studied medicine at the University of Otago, and has a postgraduate diploma in travel medicine (Otago). She also studied tropical medicine in Uganda and Tanzania, and holds a diploma from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. She currently works in clinical travel medicine in Auckland.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Li-Wern Yim, Travel Doctor
Last reviewed: 25 Jan 2020
If you havehealth-related concernsabout novel coronavirus (COVID-19), call the dedicated 0800 number:0800 358 5453. The line is staffed by nurses, paramedics and health advisors. Interpreters are available.
What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus (Covid-19)?
Symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are similar to a range of other respiratory illnesses such as influenza and do not necessarily mean that you have novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.
What precautions can I take?
As with other respiratory illnesses, it’s important to follow basic hand and respiratory hygiene measures to reduce the risk of infection:
Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections
Frequently wash hands, especially after contact with ill people or their environment
Avoid close contact with sick live farm animals or wild animals
People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practise cough etiquette:
Maintain distance from others
Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or cough/sneeze into your elbow
If you are planning on travelling overseas, and are worried you may be going to an area affected by the virus, check the government’ssafetravel.govt.nz websitefor the latest travel advisories before you go. Currently, for example, the advice isnotto travel to mainland China
As always, travellers who become sick within a month of their arrival in New Zealand are encouraged to seek medical advice by phoning Healthline (0800 611 116) or seeing a doctor. If you havehealth-related concerns specifically about novel coronavirus (COVID-19) , call the dedicated 0800 number: 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs). The line is staffed by nurses, paramedics and health advisors. Interpreters are available. It is important to mention recent travel to areas affected by Covid-19 and/or any known contact with someone diagnosed with the virus.
Novel coronavirus (Covid-19): Travel information
Advice for the current novel coronavirus (originally called 2019-nCoV and now officially called Covid-19) outbreak is changing constantly. For the latest travel advice, see the following resources and websites.
Travellers arriving to New Zealand
If you have recently been in, or transited through,mainland China, theMinistry of Health adviceis tostay in self-isolationfor 14 days after leaving China. This is because there is a risk that you have been exposed to COVID-19 and, if you have been infected with the virus, you could spread it to others before your symptoms appear. You should also register your details with Healthline (within 24 hours of arriving in New Zealand) by free-phoning0800 358 5453(or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs).
If you have hadclose contactwith someone confirmed (by medical diagnosis) as having novel coronavirus (COVID-19), theMinistry of Health adviceis to alsostay at home in isolation for 14 daysafter your last time of contact with the infected person. You should also register your details with Healthline by free-phoning0800 358 5453.
If you start experiencing mild symptoms, remain at home and call the dedicated coronavirus number: 0800 358 5453. The line is staffed by nurses, paramedics and health advisors. Interpreters are available. It is important to mention recent travel to areas affected by novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and/or any known contact with someone diagnosed with the virus.
If your symptoms are more severe – such as fever and difficulty breathing – arrange to see a doctor urgently, letting them know your travel history in advance.
If you haven’t recently been to mainland China - or been in contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus - you are unlikely to be at risk. If you do start experiencing symptoms, it is likely to be another common respiratory illness. As it is currently winter in the Northern Hemisphere, respiratory illnesses (such as colds and influenza) are expected among those leaving the region. Stay home until you feel better and call Healthline for advice: 0800 611 116. Healthline has interpreters available on request. If your symptoms are severe, arrange to see a doctor.
For more information see the Ministry of Health factsheet:
海报 –新型冠状病毒信息 PDF（英文和简体中文） Flyer/Poster – Coronavirus info PDF
传单 –‘新型冠状病毒自我防护‘ PDF Flyer – 'Protect yourself against coronavirus'
海报 – ‘新型冠状病毒自我防护’ PDF Poster – 'Protect yourself against coronavirus'
Information for health professionals on novel coronavirus (Covid-19)
This page contains novel coronavirus factsheets and guidance for health professionals.
Current case definition
The Ministry of Health has developed the following case definition for Covid-19 based on expert advice from its Technical Advisory Group. The case definition takes into account both the epidemiology of the virus as well as its clinical presentation. The criteria are provisional only and will be revised as more precise information emerges on the outbreak including characteristics of transmission, incubation and infectivity period and geographical spread.
The purpose of this document is to provide health professionals, including hospital-based, community-based and public health practitioners, with information on how to identify and investigate any cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), as well as how to apply appropriate contact tracing and infection control measures to prevent its spread.