At the end of December 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. This virus was identified as a new Coronavirus (now called 2019-nCoV), which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, as well as SARS and MERS viruses.
By the end of January, it was reported that more than 7,000 people had been sickened by the virus and that although most of these cases were in China, cases had also been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, the United States, France, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Germany, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Finland and the United Kingdom.
Signs indicate that this potentially fatal virus is spreading with the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a global public health emergency. Scientists around the world are currently looking into the transmissibility and severity of the 2019-nCoV, but until we know more, there are hygiene behaviours that we can and should adopt that are proven to be effective against the spread of viruses.
How is 2019-nCoV transmitted and how contagious is it?
It is important to note that how a virus can spread from person to person, will vary greatly, sustained person-to-person spread in the community has been reported in China and occasionally internationally. As this is an evolving situation, there is still more to learn and we will update this page as more information is uncovered. Similarly to other respiratory viruses, it is believed that transmission occurs via droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes.
What are the symptoms of 2019-nCoV?
For confirmed 2019-nCoV infections, reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe but have included: fever, cough and shortness of breath. It is reported that symptoms could appear as long as 14 days after exposure.
Should you take special precautions?
There are no current special precautions that have officially been advised, however, practicing regular good hand hygiene using soap and water, and the use of an alcohol-based hand rub solution (e.g. hand sanitiser) is beneficial in helping prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. This is of particular importance when travelling or working in heavily populated areas such as airports, schools, hospitals etc. If you work in such an environment, it may be prudent to enhance existing hygiene control arrangements.
Please note that there is no currently approved vaccine against 2019-nCoV, additionally, viral testing with this novel Coronavirus against commercially available products has not yet been carried out due to the availability of the virus to test against.
Will I be putting myself at risk if I travel?
We recommend that you check with your national authorities for travel advice on whether to travel to a country affected by 2019-nCoV outbreak and other health information, including access to healthcare for reasons other than 2019-nCoV.
What is the most effective method for hand washing?
As recommended by WHO, good hand hygiene practice is as follows:
- Clean your hands by rubbing them with an alcohol-based formulation, if the hands are not visibly soiled.
- Wash your hands with soap and water following the following stages:
- Hand washing (40-60 sec): wet hands and apply soap; rub all surfaces; rinse hands and dry thoroughly with a single-use towel, use towel to turn off faucet.
- Using an alcohol-based formulation, rub hands for 20-30 seconds: apply enough product to cover all areas of the hands; rub the surfaces until dry.
For updated information visit our COVID-19 initiative page. You can also keep up-to-date with country-specific guidance and the current recommendations from dedicated websites for the WHO and the CDC.
Until such time that 2019-nCoV is scientifically understood, you may wish to download our leaflet on Recommended hand hygiene steps to prevent the spread of viruses.