With cases being confirmed in their thousands overnight, the novel Coronavirus strain COVID-19 that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has been cause for concern. The number of cases confirmed is currently around 40,000 with as many as 908 deaths confirmed within China.
The first two cases of Coronavirus in the UK were confirmed on January 31st. There are now eight confirmed cases in the UK.
The infection is dominating news headlines, but what do you know about the Coronavirus outbreak?
We spoke to Clinical Lead, Dr Daniel Atkinson about the virus and its severity.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that cause illness. These illnesses can be relatively straightforward like the common cold so many of us will experience around this time of the year, or it can lead to a more severe illness.
Previous Coronavirus outbreaks have included the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s, but the current strain of virus is called 2019-nCoV. Its epicentre is Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China, home to roughly 11 million people. This virus is believed to have originated in a ‘wet’ market in the city - where pieces of meat are sold, as well as live animals. Reports have suggested this infection may have originated from a snake or a bat.
How does it spread?
The virus is meant to have spread from an animal to a human initially, but as the virus continues to spread at a rapid rate, it’s clear that the virus is spreading between human to human. How exactly this has come to be is currently unclear, as is the ease of spreading the virus.
If 2019-nCoV is like the Sars virus, it could be spread through coughs and sneezes which is why it’s important to cover your mouth and nose if you are unwell, and to wash your hands thoroughly after coughing or sneezing.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
The symptoms are similar to flu-like symptoms. The incubation period, where those are likely to spread the virus without the symptoms being obvious, can last anywhere between two and 14 days, as per differing reports.
Those infected with 2019-nCoV start with a fever - which is why those travelling in China have been pictured having their temperature taken electronically - and a dry cough. These symptoms are typically quote routine for a common cold. However, roughly a week after these symptoms set in, patients have experienced a shortness of breath and have needed medical assistance. The current fatalities due to the virus have been elderly people and those who have already been unwell somewhat.
Does anyone in the UK have Coronavirus?
At the time of writing, eight cases have now been confirmed within the UK.
In order to contain the virus, residents have been flown back to the UK from China, and kept under quarantine.
Can I still buy stuff from China online? Or can this spread the virus?
Yes, you can still buy items from online stores based in China. It’s unlikely the virus would live so long on the surface of a box or item, and it has not currently been determined whether 2019-nCoV can be spread on contaminated surfaces. It seems more likely that in order for the virus to spread, an infected person would need to be in close proximity with someone else.
Can I still travel to China?
At the time of writing, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have advised against 'all but essential' travel to mainland China as the virus continues to spread.
Airlines have also suspended flights between the UK and China. If you are due to travel to China in the near future, you should seek further information.
How can I make sure I don’t get the Coronavirus?
Hygiene is incredibly important to ward off any viruses. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly - for at least 20 seconds - and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If you can, avoid contact with sick people and avoid shaking hands with anyone displaying flu-like symptoms.