The deadly Coronavirus – officially named Covid-19 by the World Health organisation – has been declared by the government as a “serious and imminent threat to public health”, as it introduced new powers to help deal with the spread.
Under new measures announced on Monday, the Department of Health said that people with the virus can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave.
The new measures also state that those who are infected can be forcibly sent into isolation if they pose a threat to public health.
ThIS disease is a new virus which can affect you lungs and airways, potentially proving fatal.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explaining they usually cause “mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses”, like the common cold.
This particular strain originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, the largest city in central China, and is in the same family as SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
The first suspected cases of the virus were reported at the end of last year on 31 December 2019 in Wuhan, but it has since been confirmed in other parts of China.
Most people get infected with these viruses at some point during their lives, although they usually only last for a short period of time.
Symptoms of the virus may include:
- runny nose
- sore throat
- a general feeling of being unwell
Human Coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, or more severe diseases such as SARS. However, this is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants and older adults.
How does Coronavirus Spread?
Coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the following means:
- the air by coughing and sneezing
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
- fecal contamination, although this is rare
If you are experiencing cold-like symptoms, you can help reduce the risk of spreading it by staying at home while you are ill, and avoiding close contact with others.
You should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw this away before washing your hands. It is also recommended to clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
When should I seek medical help?
You should not go out if feeling unwell. Instead you should call NHS 111 if you have visited any of the following locations in the last 14 days or have been in contact with someone who has:
China, including Macau and Hong Kong
Northern Italy (not including, Pisa, Florence and Rimini)
In addition, you should call NHS 111 and stay indoors even if you do not have symptoms if you have recently returned from:
Wuhan or Hubei Province in China
Specific lockdown areas in Northern Italy as designated by the Government of Italy
Special care zones in South Korea as designated by the Government of the Republic of South Korea
Hubei province (returned in the past 14 days)
In all these cases do not go to a GP surgery or hospital. Call NHS 111 and they will advise you. If you’re in Northern Ireland, call 0300 200 7885.
How to “self quarantine” if you think you might have Coronavirus
If you think you may have the virus, you should try to isolate or quarantine yourself.
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
According to Telegraph review,
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 is advising doctors that the virus is also likely to be contained in other bodily secretions including in 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.
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 and door handles
Using clean 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 generally recommended by the NHS for ordinary citizens – 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.
However, 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.
In hospitals, healthcare workers treating patients with the virus will wear masks but these are specialist devices and there are strict protocols they must follow to ensure they remain safe and effective.
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 .
However, as with most respiratory illnesses, it is likely to be the young and old who are most at risk once infected. 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
Of the first 425 confirmed deaths across mainland China, 80 per cent were over the age of 60, and 75 per cent had some form of underlying disease. Two thirds of the confirmed deaths were male.
Is there a vaccine for the new Coronavirus?
There is currently no vaccine but scientists around the world are racing to produce one, thanks to China’s prompt sharing of the virus’s genetic code.
However, any potential vaccine will not be available for up to a year and would most likely be given to health workers most at risk of contracting the virus first.
For now, it is a case of containment and increasing hospital capacity to treat patients. China has thrown up several new 1,000-bed hospitals in the last month alone.
Capacity to treat patients who require both ventilation and isolation will also be a major challenge for the NHS if the virus takes hold in the UK – but that has not happened yet.
What advice has the UK government issued?
The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. But the risk to individuals remains low.
In addition to the advice on symptoms above, the British government is advising against “all but essential” travel to China and urging those already there to leave if they can.
If you are a British national in China and require assistance, please contact:
24/7 number: +86 (0) 10 8529 6600
The FCO: (+44) (0)207 008 1500
Treatment for Coronavirus
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus.
Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses.
Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.
You’ll need to stay in isolation away from other people until you’ve recovered.
There is no simple cure for the new coronavirus – just as there is no cure for the common cold.
In more severe cases, the virus causes pneumonia, an infection that inflames the lungs and causes breathing difficulty. This is where the main 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.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Hundreds of flu patients will be tested by hospitals and GPs.
The tests will provide an “early warning” if the virus is spreading, Public Health England’s Prof Paul Cosford said.
It comes as oil firm, Chevron asked 300 London staff to work from home while one employee is tested for the virus. And more schools closed after trips to Italy, which has more than 300 cases.
Italy has in recent days become Europe’s worst-affected country, with a surge in cases that appear to have spread to Austria, Croatia and Switzerland.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that it was important not to overreact in response to the outbreak, saying that would also have “economic and social” costs.
He also said UK employers had been sent guidance telling them staff who are asked to self-isolate are entitled to take sick leave.
Mr Hancock said it was “a very important message for employers” that those who need to self-isolate can do so “as if they were sick”.