Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

31 January 2020 . International

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organisation received reports of pneumonia of an unknown cause in Wuhan City in China. Authorities in China quickly identified the cause as a new (or novel) strain of coronavirus in early January. Novel coronavirus has continued to spread since this time, with confirmed cases now in multiple countries worldwide.

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organisation Director-General declared the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. More cases are being identified each day, mostly in China, however it is important to be aware of the virus and how to protect yourself and loved ones.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold, to more severe conditions such as pneumonia, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS). The strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has caused the outbreak in China is new, and not previously known.

What causes coronavirus?

These types of virus are spread between animals and humans. The source hasn’t been confirmed yet but is being investigated. Some coronaviruses can be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected individual. Evidence is still emerging but information to date indicates human-to-human transmission is occurring. 

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of this coronavirus include:

  • respiratory symptoms (like those you have with a cold)
  • fever (high temperature)
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • breathing difficulties

In more severe cases the virus can cause pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) – a severe form of pneumonia, kidney failure and death.

Who is affected?

So far, coronavirus has been confirmed in a number of countries including China, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, the United States, France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and the UK. Cases are being confirmed on an ongoing basis, with the World Health Organisation and local health authorities providing daily updates.

How should I protect myself?

  • Stay away from unwell people.
  • Avoid contact with animals.
  • Wash your hands really well using running water and soap and use alcohol-based gels.
  • Wash your hands: after you cough or sneeze; if you’re looking after someone; when you’re preparing food; after eating; after using the toilet; if your hands are dirty, and/or you’ve been near farm or wild animals.

World Health Organisation recommendations to reduce exposure and transmission also include the following:

  • Frequently clean hands by using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

Where can I get updated information about Novel Coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation is providing regular updates about Novel Coronavirus.

National and regional health authorities are also publishing local guidance on their websites, including Public Health England.

Several Bupa businesses have produced local advice about Novel Coronavirus, which you can view on their websites:


About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

Health insurance accounts for the major part of our business with 16.7m customers and contributes around 75% of revenue. We operate clinics, dental centres and hospitals in some markets, with around 15m customers. We care for around 22,300 residents in our aged care businesses in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

We directly employ around 80,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Turkey, the US, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland. We also have associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com.

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