Since the first detection of the new coronavirus at the end of 2019, identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, fears have become heightened as new cases are reported across the world.
The World Health Organisation officially named the coronavirus COVID-19 in a report on 11 February, and the death toll is now reported to be over 1,100, while confirmed cases are totalling over 45,000. In the UK however, the confirmed number of cases has risen to nine.
In an evolving public health emergency, we have prepared a simple fact sheet about the virus, tips for travellers and how to avoid catching COVID-19.
What is the Coronovirus?
COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are viruses that normally circulate among animals, and some of them can be transmitted to humans from infected animals.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses typically cause mild respiratory conditions, such as a cough or runny nose. COVID-19 seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough and then, after a week, leads to shortness of breath, when some patients need hospital treatment. In more severe cases, patients can suffer with pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How is the virus spread?
The virus is air born and usually spreads through close contact (about 6 feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is currently unclear if COVID-19 can spread by touching an infected surface and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
How to avoid catching or spreading the virus
The WHO recommend hand and respiratory hygiene as well as safe food practices:
- Clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
- Practice ‘cough etiquette’ – cover nose and mouth with tissues or inside of elbow when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
- Thoroughly cook meat and eggs
- Avoid unprotected contact with live wild or farm animals
What to do if you’re travelling abroad?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office are advising against all travel to the Hubei Province and mainland China. The FCO is not advising against travel to any other country and advice remains under constant review to assess the latest risk to British people. Up-to-date advice can be found on their travel advice guidance page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-the-foreign-commonwealth-office-puts-together-travel-advice
What to do if you’re concerned about infection?
Phone your GP for medical support in the first instance. Anyone who has recently returned from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau, and exhibiting symptoms or think you’ve had contact with someone infected, should phone NHS 111.