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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Mate korona

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect the respiratory system (your lungs and airways). COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus.

When someone with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks, they release droplets into the air. You can catch COVID-19 by breathing in the droplets. You can also catch COVID-19 by touching something (such as a door handle) that has the COVID-19 virus on it then touching your mouth or nose.

COVID-19 usually causes a mild illness. In some people, it can be a more severe. People at higher risk include anyone who is over the age of 65, has a long-term health condition, is pregnant or has just given birth. Also, Māori or Pacific peoples over the age of 50.

A small number of people have problems that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. This is known as Long COVID.

Symptoms of COVID-19

The symptoms of COVID-19 are like other viral illnesses such as a cold and the flu. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, sneezing or runny nose and temporary loss of smell or taste. You may also have nausea, vomiting or runny poos (diarrhoea).

Testing for COVID-19

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you can have a COVID-19 test. You can do this with a rapid antigen test (RAT). You can find out where to get rapid antigen test kits on this Healthpoint page.

If your test is negative and you still have symptoms, you should repeat it after 24 and 48 hours.

COVID-19 vaccinations

Several COVID-19 vaccines have been developed. Vaccinations can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 and make it less likely that you'll get severely unwell if you get it.

Booster vaccinations are important to give you ongoing protection.

Treating COVID-19


Phone 111 and ask for an ambulance if you:

Most people will have mild symptoms that they can manage at home in the same way as a cold or the flu.

Rest, eat well and drink plenty of fluids.

You can take over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen (ask your general practice team or pharmacist for advice) to help reduce your temperature and relieve any aches and pains. Carefully follow the instructions on the label about how much medicine you should take and how often you should take it. It's important not to take more than the maximum dose.

If you have a higher risk of getting more unwell because of your age (anyone aged 65 or older and Māori or Pacific peoples aged 50 or older) or having long-term conditions, you may be eligible for specific COVID-19 medicines. Contact your general practice team or check on Healthpoint for a pharmacy near you that can give you COVID-19 medicine without a prescription.

Call your general practice team or Healthline on 0800-611-116 for advice if:

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2023.


See also:


Page reference: 980907

Review key: HICOV-710714