Written & Edited by Dr. Knut Moe & Dr. Adrian Gilbane on 09/03/2020.
What is Coronavirus/Covid-19?
The Coronavirus, known officially as COVID-19, is a virus that appears to have originated in the Wuhan Province of China in late 2019. It has since gone on to affect over 100,000 people around the globe, causing over 3,000 deaths.
We don’t fully know how dangerous the virus is, as it is a novel strain which is previously unknown to us. However, the mortality rate is fairly low (about 2%) and typically appears in more elderly or immunocompromised people. For comparison, the seasonal flu has a mortality of about 1%. The crucial difference here is that there is no vaccine available yet for the Coronavirus and there are no proven treatments to date.
Coronaviruses are not uncommon, but primarily cause illnesses in animals. All viruses mutate over time and will differ in severity and ability to spread. Over the last few decades, there have been several widespread strains of Coronavirus such as SARS and MERS, which have caused significant mortality. Covid-19 does not seem to have the same mortality rate as SARS (10%) or MERS (30%), however it has spread much faster than these strains, meaning that it has rapidly become a global concern.
What are the symptoms?
In most people, those infected with Covid-19 will exhibit mild symptoms, if at all.
It can take up to 14 days for people exposed to the Coronavirus to express symptoms.
Symptoms can include, fever (high temperature), cough, shortness of breath (indicating more serious illness) and breathing difficulties. Symptoms do not tend to include a runny nose.
Most cases are mild and will resolve, however some (approximately 15-20%) can develop symptoms which require significant medical support.
How is it spread?
Covid-19 is spread via ‘close contact’ with someone who has Coronavirus and is spread by the sneeze or cough droplets, in much the same way as a cold or flu. Close contact, in this case, means spending 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person or living in the same house as an infected person.
The virus can be contracted by airborne transmission (i.e. breathing in the droplets of an infected person) or by touching a surface that has been coughed or sneezed on, and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
How do I help prevent the spread of the virus?
There are a number of simple steps that can be taken to help protect yourself and others from coronavirus.
- Regular handwashing using warm to hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing by coughing into your elbow/sleeve and or using a tissue.
- Dispose of used tissues in bins and wash your hands after sneezing/coughing on them.
- Clean and disinfect touched objects and surfaces – standard household surface cleaners and disinfectants are sufficient.
- Avoid close contact with people with any respiratory symptoms.
- Follow local public health guidance and travel advisory information.
- Wearing a mask to protect yourself is not necessary unless you are personally at high risk of contracting the disease due to being in a high-risk area and having underlying medical conditions.
As this situation is rapidly evolving, local guidelines will change and be updated frequently. It is important to familiarise yourself with these guidelines.
Should I be tested?
Covid-19 testing is being co-ordinated by national public health departments. Latest guidelines recommend testing for:
- People that have travelled to a country/region with widespread cases of Covid-19 in the past two weeks
- People that have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of Covid-19
- People that have fever, cough, shortness of breath.
If you are concerned that you may fit the above criteria, please follow local public health advice with the contact information below, DO NOT go to your local GP practice as you may risk spreading the virus to others.
Further information can be found here:
- NHS 111 online Coronavirus guidance: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19
- NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- NHS travel advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/advice-for-travellers/
- UK Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response
- Health Service Executive: https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html
- Health Protection Surveillance Centre: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/
- Department of Foreign Affairs travel advice: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/coronavirus/