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Public health team providing advice on novel coronavirus


Canterbury DHB’s Community & Public Health team will have staff at Christchurch International Airport from today to provide information on novel coronavirus for passengers arriving on flights direct from Mainland China.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ramon Pink says there is one direct flight every day from Mainland China to Christchurch. “While there are no direct flights from the most affected areas, Wuhan City and Hubei province, our staff will be meeting passengers from all direct flights from Mainland China.

“The increasing spread of the novel coronavirus, including the identification of cases in Australia, meant a public health presence at the airport was required.

“Members of the public health team are providing information to travellers about symptoms of the coronavirus illness and advising them on what to do if they become unwell in New Zealand. If any travellers report respiratory symptoms of concern, public health staff will provide an initial assessment. Any passengers of concern will be managed according to established processes.

“The current assessment is that the risk of an outbreak in NZ is low, while it is possible that cases will be identified in New Zealand. The public can be reassured that the Canterbury Health System is prepared in the event we have cases of novel coronavirus.

“Today we started distributing coronavirus awareness posters in English and Chinese to our own DHB facilities, to general practice, Urgent Care clinics and other health providers to let patients know about the symptoms and to advise them to wear a mask if they have symptoms and have been to Wuhan in the past 14 days or have had close contact with someone confirmed as having the novel coronavirus.

“Symptoms of novel coronavirus are similar to many other respiratory viruses, and include a high fever, cough and difficulty breathing. With it being influenza season in the northern hemisphere we would expect a number of travellers will have influenza-like symptoms.

Dr Pink says the public should follow the usual precautions to help keep themselves healthy and well and free from respiratory illness. This includes:
• avoiding close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections
• frequently washing hands, especially after contact with ill people or their environment
• people with symptoms of respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes using disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands regularly).

“The Ministry of Health has the latest information on novel coronavirus and it’s being updated regularly as the situation evolves at www.health.govt.nz/coronavirus,” says Dr Pink.

Visitors to New Zealand can call Healthline on 0800 611 116. Interpreters are available. Calls are free of charge and answered by a nurse 24/7.

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