18 Mar 2020

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).  Novel coronavirus 2019, a respiratory illness, is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. It was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

How does it spread?

The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or just breathes out.

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus, particularly if they are close to that person and breathe in those droplets.  In addition, these droplets can land on objects and surfaces that can come into contact with the person.

What are the symptoms and how dangerous is it?

As with other respiratory illnesses, Novel coronavirus 2019 can cause symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever and feeling sluggish.  It can lead to pneumonia and/or breathing difficulties.  More rarely, the disease can be fatal.  Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.  There is currently no vaccine available to protect against coronavirus.

How long does it take for symptoms to show?

The incubation period (length of time it can take before symptoms become evident) can be up to 14 days.

What are the steps I can take to reduce my exposure?

As a reminder, the coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 1-2m)
  • Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes

As the virus spreads through the world, below items you can undertake to reduce the risk to yourself, your family and the campus communities:

  1. Wash your hands well and frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
  2. Substitute a smile for a handshake, don’t share eating utensils or cups
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and/or mouth
  4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  5. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash
  6. Avoid close contact with others, particularly in enclosed spaces
  7. Stay home when you are sick

Do not travel if you are feeling unwell.  If you show symptoms of coronavirus at arrival airports, you may well be refused entry or quarantined and you will probably need to follow in-country procedures.  It may also prove difficult to get you home until tests confirm that you do not have coronavirus and symptoms have subsided or been treated locally.

What actions should I take if I live or have travelled to an area which has had reported cases and I develop coronavirus-like symptoms?

If you are feeling unwell and showing coronavirus-type symptoms, you should isolate yourself and seek medical attention/advice directly.

Who is at risk for COVID-19?

People who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or who have been travelling in parts of the world where the virus is actively spreading are most at risk of COVID-19.

What travel precautions should be taken?

If you intend to travel out of your home country, it is essential that you check the updated list of countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak before booking any flights. Inform yourself via guidance provided from the local authorities as well as the authorities from the destination country.

What if I have recently returned to my home country from an affected country or region?

If you have recently returned from an area where there is thought to be an active spread of the disease in the community, you should immediately stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu.  You should follow this advice even if you do not feel unwell in any way.  Check with your local authorities for guidance on being tested for detection of the virus.

Where else can I get information and advice about COVID-19?

We are being guided by a number of leading institutions such as World Health Organisation (WHO), Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and International SOS. Helpful websites are –

International SOS

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Coronavirus Dashboard


Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

How to protect yourself against COVID -19?

Q&A: How to protect yourself when traveling during the coronavirus outbreak?