Everything you need to know about Coronavirus: symptoms, tests and treatments

Coronavirus advice London

The number of UK cases of Covid-19 is increasing substantially and, in response, Boris Johnson has released the Government’s action plan, warning that a major outbreak here is ‘highly likely’. Here is our advice on the ‘new’ coronavirus that is sweeping the globe.

Covid-19 is a member of the coronavirus family of respiratory infections. First detected in Wuhan in China, it’s a new form that we’ve not yet encountered. Here’s what we do know at the moment:

Our Coronavirus Advice: can I avoid getting coronavirus?

Although it’s not known exactly how coronavirus spreads, other similar viruses spread via respiratory droplets. These are produced when you cough, sneeze or even speak and so you can minimise your risk of catching the virus by adopting the following steps:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with water and soap or use a hand sanitiser
  • Catch coughs or sneezes in a disposable tissue which you throw away (then wash your hands!)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid contact with people who are showing symptoms

Our Coronavirus Advice: what are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The effects of this coronavirus can vary in individuals, but sufferers typically report a fever first, then a dry cough, followed by shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, and it can result in pneumonia. Most people are likely to only experience mild symptoms and recover and these symptoms can also be a sign of other viruses such as the common cold or flu.

Currently, scientists believe that the proportion of people dying is low (between 1% and 2%) and evidence indicates that most of those who have died are elderly or had pre-existing health conditions. Just to compare, in the last flu season, nearly 1,700 people in England died from the viral infection.

However, it is worth bearing in mind, that the virus is still in its early stages and the figures are still not exact.

Our Coronavirus Advice: what should I do if I think I have coronavirus?

If you are concerned that you may have contracted coronavirus, then do not go to your GP, local pharmacy or hospital. Instead, contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.

You should also self-isolate and contact this service, even if you’re not showing symptoms, if you’ve been to a Category 1 country in the past 14 days – click here to see the list of Category 1 countries.

There is also a list of Category 2 countries – if you’ve visited these countries in the past two weeks and are not suffering symptoms then you do not need to take any special steps. However, if you do develop symptoms, then self-isolate and call NHS 111.

What treatments are available for coronavirus?

As it is a viral infection, antibiotics will not work and, unfortunately, the antiviral drugs we use to treat the flu currently will also not work. The virus is so new and different that it requires its own vaccine and researchers are rushing to develop an effective treatment.

At the moment, recovery depends on the strength of the person’s immune system, which is why it’s more dangerous for the elderly. You may receive treatment to help relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness and you will need to stay in isolation until you’ve finally recovered.