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10 FEBRUARY 2020

Novel coronavirus

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While health organisations around the world are fighting the spread of the coronavirus, we would advise you to take note of the basic facts surrounding this new virus. As a Momentum Medical Scheme member, you can call a doctor for free via Hello Doctor, to discuss your symptoms or get more information about any specific questions you may have.

Where and when did it all begin?

On 31 December 2019, China alerted the World Health Organisation of several patients with flu-like symptoms in a city called Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province. Initial assessments of these patients ruled out “known” flu-like viruses including bird flu, seasonal flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Once these initial patients were assessed, they were placed into quarantine. The suspected source of the outbreak was identified as a busy seafood market in the city the following day. A few days later Chinese authorities identified the virus, called coronavirus, part of a family of viruses including the common cold, SARS and MERS. The new virus was named 2019-nCoV.

Spreading like wildfire

Globally as of 6 February 2020, 28 274 cases have been detected with over 565 deaths across 22 countries. The World Health Organisation has now declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s and their name comes from their crown or halo-like shape. Their danger lies in their ability to adapt. This means they can easily spread between and infect different species. While some coronaviruses can cause the common cold, others can develop into more serious illnesses that lead to difficulty breathing, pneumonia and death.

Where did it come from?

Scientists have confirmed that the coronavirus, like around 70% of new human pathogens, was transmitted from an animal. But they are still investigating exactly what this creature might be.

What are the symptoms?

Patients who have contracted the virus have experienced fever, shortness of breath and coughing. The virus can also cause bronchitis and pneumonia, an infection that inflames the air sacs in the lungs and can cause them to fill with fluid.

Who is at risk?

Those most at risk of contracting the coronavirus include those with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.

Protecting yourself and others

There is currently no known treatment for coronavirus and to date, no vaccine. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. In addition, it is always important to follow good hand and respiratory hygiene, including:

  • Regularly cleaning hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand


  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or elbow when coughing

    or sneezing

  • Avoiding contact with anyone who has flu-like symptoms

  • Avoiding unprotected contact with live wild or farm animals.

Most importantly, if you were in China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care immediately. Before you go to a doctor’s office or

    emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and

    your symptoms.

  • Avoid contact with others.

Protecting yourself and others from getting sick

Wash your hands:
  • After coughing or sneezing

  • When caring for the sick

  • Before, during and after you prepare food

  • Before eating

  • After toilet use

  • When hands are visibly dirty

  • After handling animals or animal waste

Practise good hygiene
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow

    or tissue.

  • Throw tissues into a closed bin immediately after use.

  • Clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water after

    coughing or sneezing and when caring for the sick.

Practise food safety

Even in areas experiencing outbreaks, meat products can be safely consumed if these items are cooked thoroughly and properly handled during food preparation.

What you are covered for:

In-and out-of-hospital benefits are covered as per your option. You are welcome to call us on 0860 11 78 59 with any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to seek treatment, should you experience the symptoms mentioned above or have any other reason for concern.


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