What Do We Know About Coronavirus (COVID 19)

Updated 29 Feb 2020

What is Coronavirus?

Corona viruses are not new. They are familiar causes of colds and upper respiratory tract infections. They can cause mild illnesses, but are also responsible for severe infections (like SARS and MERS.)

This virus is new. The first cluster of cases were identified in China on 31.12.2019, so all we know about how the virus spreads is from data obtained since then.

How is it spread?

The virus probably spread from animals to humans first (this is common for coronaviruses) but now it can be spread from human to human.  It seems that the main way of spread is respiratory – by droplets inhaled from someone who is infected and who coughs or sneezes. There is a possibility that it can be spread from stool (poo.)  There are a few people in the world who tested positive who had diarrhoea but no respiratory symptoms, though most with diarrhoea also had respiratory symptoms.  It can sit in the body for between 2 and 14 days and spread before someone has symptoms (this is called the incubation period.)

What are the symptoms?

Most people who have COVID 19 complain of fever (having a temperature), cough, muscle ache, fatigue and shortness of breath when the illness starts.

Is it serious?

In most cases, coronavirus causes a mild illness, like a cold. In a few people, it can cause pneumonia (a deep chest infection that might require hospital admission), and in a few people it can cause a very severe pneumonia which might require care in ITU. Some people have died from COVID 19. The people who appear to be more seriously affected are people with underlying lung or heart disease, or cancer, or who are immunosuppressed. Pregnant ladies also seem to be more severely affected. Children do not seem to be so severely affected.  The CFR (case fatality rate) is the number of people per 100 who are likely to die because of the infection. The current quoted CFR is about 2%, but we don’t know for sure, as we don’t know how many people have been infected with a mild illness. Also, the virus mutates (changes) as it spreads around the world, so in some areas it seems to have a higher CFR than in other places.

What are the treatments?

There are no treatments. All that can be done when a person is infected is to support their body to fight the infection by itself. This can be simple measures such as controlling the fever with paracetamol and drinking lots of fluids in a mild illness, all the way to supporting the body with ventilation in intensive care if the infection is very severe.

What can I do to protect myself from getting COVID 19?

Cases in the UK are still very rare. As of 28.2.20, 5986 people had been tested in England, and only 20 had a positive test result.  500 people in Scotland have been tested and none have the disease. They have respiratory infections caused by other organisms. Some of those affected are health professionals.

To protect yourself, practice good hygiene. Wash hands after coughing or sneezing, and before and after preparing food and going to the toilet. Cough and sneeze into a folded elbow. If you use a tissue, dispose of it straight way.  Carry alcohol gel so that you can clean your hands when you are out and about.

What do I do if I have symptoms?

Seek advice from the practice website, and the government’s coronavirus information pages.

If you have mild upper respiratory symptoms it may be necessary to isolate yourself. There is advice about this here: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/02/20/what-is-self-isolation-and-why-is-it-important/

If you are breathless and feel very unwell, please call the practice so a doctor can advise you how to proceed.

If you are concerned you might have COVID19, please call 111 to receive advice.

What might happen next?

Experts are not sure yet, but in the globalised world we live in, we are likely to find the infection spreading into the UK.  If it does, it is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of people. If this happens, the advice will change. The health system will move to a different way of working, and schools and offices may be closed and public gatherings cancelled. There will be more information about this if this situation arises.

What is Cowley Road Medical Practice doing about it?

We are keeping up to date and preparing for cases, following the advice given to us by Public Health England and other sources.

Where can I find out further information?

The best sources of advice are:

UK government: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

World Health Organisation (WHO): https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

The American Centre for Disease Control (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.htm