Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): Situation update 24th January 2020

Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): Situation update 24th January 2020


The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan has led to many concerns regarding spread within China and globally, especially with increased travel during Chinese New Year celebrations this week. At this stage, the risk in New Zealand remains low.

Coronaviruses can cause an illness very similar to influenza. It should be noted that it is influenza season in the northern hemisphere, so influenza and other respiratory viral infections are still far more likely than nCoV at this stage. Laboratory testing for nCoV must be discussed with the on-call Clinical Microbiologist BEFORE taking any samples. They will provide guidance on appropriate infection control precautions, risk assessment, taking the right samples and any referrals needed.

Consider the diagnosis of 2019-nCoV with:

  1. 1. Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) AND

  2. 2. history of travel to a place where nCoV is circulating in the last 14 days before symptom onset (at this time point, this is primarily Wuhan City, China) OR

  3. 3. close contact with an unwell person who is under investigation for or has laboratory confirmed 2019-nCoV infection

Please note that staff assessing patients with febrile acute respiratory illnesses following travel should wear a mask and use hand gel to prevent transmission.

The situation overseas is evolving and further updates will be provided in line with WHO and Ministry of Health guidance as these are available.


Dr Michelle Balm

Clinical Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases Physician

Wellington Southern Community Laboratories