A Practical Guide to Coronavirus
To help protect you and your family.
The new coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading fast and more than 114,500 people around the world are known to be infected. Although more than 4,000 deaths have been recorded worldwide.
As of 10th of March there have been more than 320 confirmed cases in the UK and 6 deaths.
What is a coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
A novel coronavirus (nCoV) – like the one currently spreading across the world – is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Covid-19 is thought to have originated in a food market in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and humans.
Because coronavirus is a new illness, the NHS says, we still don’t know exactly how it spreads. However, like other viruses, it is likely that it Covid-19 is passed from person to person through droplets of moisture that leave the body when coughing and sneezing.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Seven, including the new virus, have made the jump to humans, but most just cause common cold-like symptoms.
This new virus known officially as Covid-19 is more dangerous than the common cold.
What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the main symptoms of the coronavirus usually include:
- A dry cough
- A temperature
- Shortness of breath (in more severe cases)
Some patients may have “aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea”, the World Heath Organisation (WHO) adds. “These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell”.
These symptoms are similar to other respiratory diseases including flu and the common cold. So if you have symptoms, consider the following:
- Have you travelled to a high risk area such as China, South Korea or Northern Italy in the last two weeks?
- Have you been in close contact with someone with coronavirus?
How quickly do symptoms emerge?
Symptoms are thought to appear between two and 10 days after contracting the virus, but it may be up to 24 days.
Most people (about 80 per cent) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. However, around one out of every six people (16 per cent) becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, lung complaints or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
When should I seek medical help?
People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention quickly.
But you should not go out. Instead, you should call NHS 111. Also call NHS 111 if:
- you think you might have coronavirus
- in the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus
- you’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus
What if I feel fine but have recently returned from a high risk area?
In some cases you may be asked to self-quarantine to protect others even if you do not have symptoms but have travelled to a high risk area.
Use this NHS advice tool to find out what to do to protect yourself and others.
Do not go to a GP, pharmacy or hospital as if you have the virus you may infect others.
How to ‘self quarantine’ if you think you might have coronavirus
This means you should:
- Stay at home
- Avoid work, school and other public areas
- Avoid public transport and taxis
- Get friends and family to delivery food, medicines etc rather than going to the shops
- Discourage visitors
How is the new coronavirus spread and how can I protect myself?
Hand hygiene is the first and most important line of defence.
Like cold and flu bugs, the new virus is spread via droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on surfaces and are picked up on the hands of others and spread further. People catch the virus when they touch their infected hands to their mouth, nose or eyes.
It follows that the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water or a hand sanitising gel.
Also try to avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands – something we all do unconsciously on average about 15 times an hour.
Other tips include:
- Carry a hand sanitiser with you to make frequent cleaning of your hands easy
- Always wash your hands before you eat or touch your face
- Be especially careful about touching things and then touching your face in busy airports and other public transport systems
- Carry disposable tissues with you, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue carefully (catch it, bin it, kill it)
- Do not share snacks from packets or bowls that others are dipping their fingers into
- Avoid shaking hands or other bodily contact if you suspect viruses are circulating
- Regularly clean not only your hands but also commonly used surfaces and devices you touch or handle
Is it just droplets from the nose and mouth that spread the new virus?
Probably not, but they are by far the most common risk.
The NHS and World Health HO is advising doctors that the virus is also likely to be contained in other bodily secretions including blood, faeces and urine.
Here again, hand and surface hygiene is the key.
How can I protect my family, especially children?
Children are a major vector for the spread of droplet-based viruses because they interact physically so much with each other and are not the best at keeping themselves clean.
The virus appears to impact older people more commonly but children can be infected and they can get severe illness, the government warns.
However, you can greatly lower the risk that children pose of spreading or catching viruses by:
- Explaining to them how germs spread and the importance of good hand and face hygiene
- Keeping household surfaces clean, especially kitchens, bathrooms, door handles and light switches
- Using clean or disposable cloths to wipe surfaces so you don’t transfer germs from one surface to another
- Giving everyone their own towel and making sure they know not to share toothbrushes, etc
- Keep your home dry and airy (bugs thrive in musty environments)
What about face masks – do they work?
Paper face masks are not recommended by Public Health England, the NHS or other major health authorities for ordinary citizens, and with good reason.
They are ill-fitting and what protection they might initially provide soon expires. Worse, they quickly become moist inside, providing the perfect environment for germs to thrive in. They also become a hazard for others if carelessly discarded.
An exception to this would be if you were displaying symptoms such as coughing or sneezing – then a mask may help prevent you spreading the virus to others in busy locations.
Can the new coronavirus be treated?
There is no simple cure for the new coronavirus, just as there is no cure for the common cold.
In the vast majority of cases, the disease is only mild. Symptoms such as fever and general discomfort can be treated with aspirin and ibuprofen, or packaged cold and flu remedies containing the same.
It is in more severe cases, where pneumonia develops, that the danger lies. Viral pneumonia cannot be treated with antibiotics and, for the moment at least, there are no antivirals specific to this particular virus.
Instead doctors focus on supporting patients’ lung function as best they can. They may be given oxygen or placed on a breathing machine (ventilator) in the most severe cases.
Other symptoms such as fever and discomfort will be treated using drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Secondary infections may be treated with antibiotics.
Are some groups of people more at risk than others?
Data from China suggests that people of all ages are at risk of contracting the virus, although older people are more likely to develop serious illness.
People with a reduced chance of surviving pneumonia include:
- Those over age 65
- Children under the age of two
- People with underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system
Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?
There is currently no vaccine, but scientists around the world are racing to produce one.
For now, it is a case of containment and increasing hospital capacity to treat patients. The UK government’s conornavirus action plan aims to delay and flatten the epidemic curve of the disease to avoid the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.
How is coronavirus different from the flu and common cold?
The common cold is caused by a different strain of virus to the Covid-19.
Most coronaviruses, much like the common cold, cause mild infection in the upper respiratory tract and produce relatively minor symptoms such as a stuffy nose, sore head and sore throat.
People who get Covid-19 suffer from respiratory systems that can cause coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and fever. The infection can also cause pneumonia, kidney failure and in the most serious cases, death.
Meanwhile, flu is caused by a number of different influenza viruses. Flu is very infectious and easily spreads to other people, and is likely to be passed on to another person with the first five days of infection.
Flu symptoms can be slightly more serious than those associated with the common cold, with some people experiencing a loss of appetite, diarrhoea or tummy pain, feeling sick and being sick.
In the most serious cases, flu can also cause pneumonia.
In most people, common cold symptoms usually peak within the first two to three days of infection, while the effects of coronavirus appear two to 14 days after exposure.
The coronavirus is more dangerous than the common cold and flu. Scientists have been studying flu and the common cold for years, meaning that a number of treatments, such as the flu jab are available to help battle against getting ill, but because Covid-19 is new, there is no vaccination against it.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb says schools should remain open:
The information provided above has been drawn from the websites of the NHS, The Telegraph, the World Health Organisation and gov.uk and is provided for general information purposes only. Although we aim to remain as accurate as possible in the information we present, we provide no warranties, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability and suitability of the information provided.