23rd March 2020
What we know about the current outbreak of coronavirus outbreak is constantly being updated, and the situation is being monitored and responded to constantly to ensure that the best practices and measures are being taken at all times in an effort to minimise the impact COVID-19 has on our health & safety and our economy & infrastructure.
With the uncertainty around this pandemic, it is understandable that some may feel overwhelmed or confused by the current situation. With help from the World Health Organization website, we have put together the following information to clarify the points that we know about the virus so far.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus COVID-19 is just one in a large family of viruses which cause illness in animals and humans, resulting in respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
What are the Symptoms?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. However, some patients might also experience:
- Aches and pains.
- Nasal congestion.
- Runny nose.
- Sore throat.
These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually – some people with the virus might not show symptoms or feel unwell at all.
Around 80% of people who contract the virus make a full recovery without the need for special treatment; however, approximately 1 in 6 people do become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. People who are more likely to develop serious illness if they develop the virus include the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes (this is not a conclusive list). As such, anyone with a fever, cough or are experiencing difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
How is COVID-19 Spread?
The virus is highly contagious and can be spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or exhales. These droplets land on surfaces and objects which, when touched by someone else who then touches their eyes, nose or mouth can cause them to contract the virus.
It is also possible to catch COVID-19 by breathing in these droplets when someone coughs, sneezes or exhales in close proximity to them. This is why it is important to stay at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from others at this time.
NB: People who do not show symptoms of COVID-19 are unlikely to spread the disease, however, it is possible for those with mild symptoms and does not feel ill to pass the virus to others if they have even a slight cough.
How Can We Protect Ourselves and Help to Prevent COVID-19 Spreading?
As you are aware, the government are constantly releasing updates on the protection measures that we should all be following, so it is important to stay up to date with these announcements and check regularly for the latest news and guidance.
At this moment in time, we have been advised to adhere to the following measures:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Maintain at least 2 meters (6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
- Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid travelling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.
In addition to the above guidance, further protection measures have been advised for anyone in or who have recently visited areas where COVID-19 is spreading:
- Self-isolate for 14 days if you have returned from a high-risk area such as China or Italy.
- Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low-grade fever (37.3 C or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover. If it is essential for you to have someone bring you supplies or to go out, e.g. to buy food, then wear a mask to avoid infecting other people.
Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travellers.
Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Want to know more about what to do as an employer or employee during this outbreak? Read more in our post Coronavirus – Advice for Employers and their Staff Amidst COVID-19.
For more information on COVID-19 and to keep up to date with the latest news and advice, visit the WHO website.
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