What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS. This particular variant is called COVID-19, it’s thought that the first people got it by eating or handling infected meat. As it’s a new variant, humans don’t currently have any natural immunity to it.
You can find official guidance for the UK here: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ and here: www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public
If you think you may have Coronavirus do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home for seven days. The NHS has further guidance here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Do you need to be worried?
Numbers will continue to increase so remain vigilant. It’s not a matter of if, but when, and how many people will be infected by this virus. We live in a highly mobile world, whereas 100 years ago it could of taken months or years for something like this to travel the world, today it can take just weeks.
Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, it’s currently thought it mainly spreads in cough or sneeze droplets. ‘Close contact’ bas been defined as within about 6 feet (1.8 m). The difficulty lies that some people may be asymptomatic, have the virus but not show any symptoms. One infected person in a confined area such as a packed train carriage can infect a large number of people.
‘Social distancing‘ is a key way to battle the spread of this disease. If you are elderly or have a long term health condition, you could:
- Go shopping at off-peak times or get someone to do it for you
- Stay away from busy locations such as restaurants or pubs
- Stay in touch with others by phone or email rather than face-to-face
- Stay home as much as possible
- Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces
- Avoid all non-essential travel, especially to high population areas.
- Try to avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places.
- Clean your hands often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after having been in a public place and before eating.
If the infection rate reaches the tens of thousands staying at home and self isolating may be the only way to give yourself some protection.
Good hygiene is at the core of prevention. Do not touch items like trolley handles, touch screens, door handles etc in public places then touch your face or touch food without washing your hands first. Keep plenty of soap or hand gel at home for hand washing and carry alcohol based hand wipes or gel while on the move.
Coronaviruses can survive on surfaces as long as 72 hours (in comparison, flu viruses can last on surfaces for only about 48 hours). But it’s also been found that they can be wiped away by household disinfectants and bleach.
Look, even if you don’t want to wash your hands regularly, think about that the person who pressed the elevator button, touched the door knob, the hand railing, the ATM might just have been to the bathroom and did not wash his or her hands, how do you feel about it now?
— Dr Adrian Heald (@DrAdrianHeald) March 1, 2020
How can I prepare?
The government has said that restrictions on movement would be a last resort. In a worse case scenario there could be disruptions to the supply chain. It maybe worth taking precautions so that you can stay at home for several weeks if necessary, especially if you have no one to fall back on:
- Have important prescription medication (if necessary) ready for a month.
- Keep a supply of long-life food, tins, pasteurised drinks such as fruit juices and long life milk, cereal’s.
- Keep plenty of tissues in stock, use bins with lids and line them with plastic bags.
- To keep house surfaces clean keep a bottle of disinfectant in stock.
- Make arrangements to protect your friends and family. The elderly and sick with weak immune systems are particularly at risk and dependent on help.
- Make arrangements to care for sick family members without infecting yourself.
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take up to 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
The majority of people will have mild symptoms. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing problems. The difficulty lies in the fact that these symptoms are similar to what you would get if you had the flu or the normal common cold which is why you would need to be tested. Anyone who’s had a bad flu virus will know how disabling it can be. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure.
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital if you think you may have Coronavirus, COVID-19. Use the 111 coronavirus service.
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus. Although antibiotics can treat pneumonia, one of the secondary conditions caused by Coronavirus, they do not work against against the virus itself. Self treatment is directed at relieving symptoms and may include:
- Pain relievers/Lemsip style drinks
- Cough syrup or medication
- Decongestants such as Vicks
- Lots of rest
- Fluid intake such as juices rich in vitamin C
- Lucozade style drinks.
The good news is vaccine’s are already being developed. The bad news is that any mainstream vaccine will be over a year away. After surviving the COVID-19 you should be less likely to get it again in the near future.
Also warmer weather is on the way: “‘Sunlight will cut the virus’ ability to grow in half, so the half-life will be two-and-a-half minutes and in the dark it’s about 13–20 minutes. Sunlight is really good at killing viruses’ said Professor John Nicholls from the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Pathology.