We must be prepared for coronavirus

02 March 2020

Dr Maryann Heather with Marama Papau on Tagata Pasifika talanoa.

The first case of COVID-19 coronavirus is now confirmed in New Zealand. It’s important to be alert but not alarmed, and take care of yourself and your family, says SouthSeas Healthcare Dr Maryann Heather.

Coronavirus, like the flu, can spread from person to person. It can be spread by coughing and sneezing and close personal contact. You can also catch the disease by contact with an object or surface with viral particles on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Dr Heather appeared on TP+ Tagata Pasifika talanoa reiterating that good hygiene practices, such as regularly washing and thoroughly drying your hands, and other simple steps, including avoiding close contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses can help stop the virus spreading.

“This is a new virus and our Pacific community should be prepared. The coronavirus has infected and killed many people and is now spreading from China to other countries, including New Zealand and this of particular concern for our Pacific Island communities.”

“We just have to make sure that everyone is prepared. Our Pacific community is very vulnerable. In SouthSeas we have about 5,300 patients and 94% are Pacific and probably half of those numbers are those over 65 years old, with a lot having long term conditions. It’s a real concern.”

“We have heard about the numbers of cases affecting the elderly in overseas countries and how that will translate into our elderly population in NZ is a major concern.”

“It’s only a matter of time before it hits our Pacific population and we have to make sure that our communities are well prepared. Our message is simple. Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene, staying home if you or your family are unwell and avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.”

The Ministry of Health urges anyone who has the symptoms and have recently been to mainland China or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with the illness, to contact the dedicated free Healthline number 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 from international SIMS) or your doctor immediately.

Keep an eye on our website and the Ministry of Health website for updates.

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