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Coronavirus Q&A: Everything you need to know from risks, symptoms to self-isolation


'Coronavirus is a respiratory disease, causing mild symptoms ranging from a fever and a dry cough to more serious conditions such as severe pneumonia, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.'

'Coronavirus is a respiratory disease, causing mild symptoms ranging from a fever and a dry cough to more serious conditions such as severe pneumonia, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.'


'Coronavirus is a respiratory disease, causing mild symptoms ranging from a fever and a dry cough to more serious conditions such as severe pneumonia, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.'

Q. Exactly what is coronavirus, or Covid-19?

A. Coronavirus is a respiratory disease, causing mild symptoms ranging from a fever and a dry cough to more serious conditions such as severe pneumonia, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.

They are similar to those for much more common viruses, such as colds and flu.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with pre-existing medical conditions or weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer, heart and chronic lung disease.

Q. Where did coronavirus come from?

A. A new strain of coronavirus (Covid-19) was first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019, which has now spread to 111 other countries and territories around the world.

Q. What are the risks?

A. The UK Chief Medical Officers have declared the risk to the public to be low to moderate.

Q. What areas are most at risk?

A. If you have recently been travelling outside of the UK, you may be at an increased risk of Covid-19.

Areas of risk are China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Italy, Iran, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Q. What should I do if I have been to these countries?

A. Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people if you've travelled to the UK from the above named places in the last 14 days, even if you do not have symptoms.

Q. How long does it take for the symptoms to show up?

A. The incubation period - between infection and showing any symptoms - lasts up to 14 days, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. But some researchers say it may be up to 24 days.

Q. How deadly is coronavirus?

A. Four out of five people who contract coronavirus will only experience mild symptoms, a WHO examination of data from 56,000 patients has shown.

The proportion of people dying from the disease appears low (between 1% and 2%) - but the figures are unreliable.

Q. How does coronavirus spread?

A. It is not yet known exactly how coronavirus spreads.

However, similar viruses are spread via droplets, such as those produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

So, coughing and sneezing into tissues, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and trying to avoid close contact with infected people are important.

Q. How can I protect myself and stop coronavirus spreading?

A. Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available.

Don't touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Q. What is the treatment?

A. There is no specific treatment for Covid-19.

For patients with the disease, treatment has involved "supportive care," such as fluids and medication to relieve symptoms like shortness of breath.

Q. Should I be avoiding public places?

A. Most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places.

The current government advice states mass events and public gatherings should not be cancelled, and people should continue to act normally for now.

People only need to stay at home and self-isolate if they are advised to do so by NHS 111 or a health professional.

Q. How fast is it spreading?

A. Hundreds of new cases are being reported worldwide each day. However, it is thought health agencies may be unaware of many cases.

After starting in China, coronavirus is now spreading fast in countries like South Korea, Italy and Iran.

Q. Should I wear a face mask?

A. Face masks for the general public are not recommended to protect from infection, as there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments

Q. What should I do if I think I have contracted coronavirus?

A. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. In Northern Ireland call the NHS 111 phone service for further advice.

Q. Where can I get tested for coronavirus?

A. Testing can take place at hospital, in a drive through facility based at Antrim Area Hospital or at home - but only if there's a high chance you have the virus.

Q. What does the coronavirus test entail?

A: If a health professional decides that you need to be tested, they will take some samples to test for coronavirus. This may include samples of: mucus from your nose; throat or lungs; blood or a stool sample.

Q. What about a vaccine?

Vaccines have been developed and researchers are starting to test them on animals, but tests can take months to see if any potential vaccine can be used on humans and there will then have to be trials on humans.

The WHO has convened a group of experts to fast-track promising tests, drugs and vaccines, but few believe one will be ready for at least another year.

Q. What is the current advice for travellers?

A. While the Public Health Agency (PHA) does not issue travel advice, if you're concerned about the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on your existing travel plans, check with your airline, tour operator, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers as applicable.

People who plan to travel should check the latest government travel advice.

Q. Will my travel insurance cover me if I want to cancel my trip due to the coronavirus?

A. Travel insurance will likely only step in when the country you are going to has been named by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) as somewhere you should not travel to at all, or where you should only travel if it is essential. It is important to check your travel insurance policy for the scope of cover.

Q. What is the risk to children?

A. In general, children appear to be relatively unaffected by coronavirus, according to data from China.

This may be because they are able to shake off the infection or have no symptoms or only very mild ones similar to a cold.

However, children with underlying lung problems, such as asthma, may have to be more careful, as the virus could trigger an attack.

Q. Will the warmer weather bring any relief?

A. Some observers have pointed to the fact that Africa has relatively few cases of Covid-19 which may be a response to hotter conditions there.

The virus cannot take the heat, in other words.

Q. Can the virus be spread on banknotes?

A. The Chinese government has said that cash received by all banks must be sterilised before being released to customers, in order to reduce the spread of the disease.

Using contactless cards can minimise the risk of handling cash but these cards can also harbour germs and viruses.

The best practice is to wash your hands thoroughly after handling banknotes, cards or coins.

Q. Can animals get Covid-19?

A. The WHO says at present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.

The WHO has advised pet owners to maintain good hygiene, like washing their hands with soap and water after contact with their pets.

Q. How are exam boards preparing in case schools have to close?

A. Exam boards across the UK currently say there are no changes to timetables and that students, schools and colleges should prepare for exams as normal in early May.

The CCEA in Northern Ireland say they are monitoring the situation closely.

Q. Will I get paid by my employer if I have to self-isolate?

A. Provisions for sick leave vary from company to company.

Many employees will have contracts that allow them their normal pay while they are unable to work because they are sick.

Q. Should I be disinfecting my phone?

A. Coronavirus is believed to be transferred between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes.

But experts think that it can survive on surfaces, possibly for days. So it's important that your phone - at home, mobile or at work - is cleaned thoroughly and often.

Q. Is stockpiling of food and cleaning items a good idea?

A. Official guidance says no, stock piling is not a good idea.

The British Retail Consortium - representing most British supermarkets - said it was working "as hard as they can" to ensure people have access to products.

It assured the public retailers are well-versed in providing effective measures to keep things "running smoothly".

Belfast Telegraph