Understanding Coronavirus: A Guide to the Global Pandemic

The current coronavirus pandemic has been dominating the headlines for several weeks and it’s understandable that the UK population has been feeling increasingly concerned for themselves and their loved ones.

Health organisations have been issuing practical advice on handwashing techniques, what to do if you are experiencing symptoms and how to how look after the well-being of elderly or vulnerable relatives.

The UK government has been taking a number of steps to curb the spread of the virus, the latest of which is the announcement to close schools across the nation (with exception of the children of key workers or vulnerable children), in a measure to minimise the impact of Covid-19.

Where and how did the virus start?

The first cases of coronavirus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and despite China’s attempts to stop the virus spreading out of the country, it has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).  Coronavirus hadn’t been detected in humans before December 2019, an indication as to how quickly it has reached countries around the globe.

How does a person catch coronavirus?

As far as medical experts are aware, the virus is primarily spread by close contact with an infected person via coughs and sneezes. It’s not currently known how long the virus can survive on a surface, but health scientists believe that if a person touches an infected surface, such as a door handle or table and then touches their eyes or mouth they may be at risk of contracting the illness.

Main coronavirus symptoms to look out for

It’s important to remember that most healthy adults will make a full recovery from the coronavirus and the symptoms may be quite mild. In some cases, the sufferer may feel like they have the flu.  The symptoms to look out for are:

  • A dry, continuous cough
  • Breathing difficulties or a shortness of breath
  • A fever (with a high temperature of 38.7C or above (100F)
  • Respiratory issues

The elderly or people with underlying health conditions have been classed in a high-risk category and, if infected, may require hospitalisation. In rare and extremely serious cases, sufferers may need ventilation to help with breathing difficulties. Sadly, to date there have been over 100 fatalities in the UK from the virus.

I have coronavirus symptoms – what should I do?

If you’ve developed a high temperature, a fever or a persistent cough, then the advice from medical experts is to stay at home and self-isolate for seven days.  If you share your home with other people, then the whole household needs to stay at home for fourteen days.

The NHS and medical staff do not want anyone who suspects they have coronavirus or the symptoms of Covid-19 attending their GP surgery, a pharmacy or going to A&E.

If your symptoms worsen, or after seven days your symptoms have not improved, the advice is to call the 111 coronavirus service. The latest advice is detailed on the Government’s stay at home guidance webpage.

What can I do to protect myself?

The best way to protect yourself and your family from the virus and prevent the spread of infection is to adopt the following hygiene measures:

  1. Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Use soap and warm running water and lather the soap for twenty seconds (or sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself twice whilst you wash). If you do not have access to soap and water, it’s sensible to carry an alcohol-based gel.
  2. Cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough. Use a tissue or if you don’t have one, sneeze into the crook of your sleeved elbow.
  3. Minimise the amount of time spent touching your face – especially if your hands are not clean.
  4. Regularly clean surfaces at home, use anti-bacterial wipes on your smartphone, keyboard and other devices.

How does ‘social distancing’ work?

It is advisable to minimise contact with others as much as possible and adopt a practical social distancing policy to lower the risk of infection.

If it is possible to avoid public transport, then do so, or try to arrange to travel outside of the rush hour when trains and buses are less busy.  Many social events that involve mass gatherings of people (such as Glastonbury Festival) have already been cancelled and steering clear of places where crowds of people meet, such as the cinema or pub is a sensible precaution.

Most modern workplaces are adopting a Work From Home policy to allow employees to stay safe and remain productive. This will be even more important in the coming weeks as many parents will have to juggle working from home with childcare duties, due to the closure of all UK schools.

If you are worried about staying in contact with family and friends, now is the time to embrace technology to communicate with them rather than meeting up in person. Teach your older relatives how to make a video call so they don’t feel isolated.

The social distancing advice is especially important for anyone over the age of seventy, pregnant women and people who have an underlying medical condition.

If everyone takes sensible precautions, then we can all play a part in lessening the impact of the coronavirus on our country.

Is there a treatment for coronavirus?

Currently there is not a cure for the coronavirus, however you can take paracetamol to help relieve any symptoms or flu-like aches and pains.  Antibiotics do not help to cure viruses. The current guidance is to stay at home, keep hydrated and rest as your body fights the virus, unless you are in a high-risk group or your symptoms worsen, in which case contact 111 for medical advice.

Find out more at www.gov.uk 

COVID-19: guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance COVID-19: stay at home guidance
Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19) NHS information: coronavirus (COVID-19)