As the COVID-19 strain of the Coronavirus continues to hit the headlines, we talk to our dedicated GP, Dr Roisin McHugh, about the virus and what we can do to minimise the chances of it spreading.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a Coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that originated in animals and which has transferred to humans. In most cases, when contracted by a human, it results in mild cold and flu-like symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. Though the majority of cases are reported as mild, in more severe cases, the virus causes pneumonia, an infection that inflames the lungs and causes breathing difficulty. This is where the main danger lies.
Is COVID-19 fatal?
The current death rate for those who contract COVID-19 stands at 2%.
Who is most at risk when contracting the virus?
As is the case with most respiratory illnesses, those most at risk include:
- People over the age of 65
- Children under the age of two
- People with underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system
Can I get some antibiotics, just in case?
As this is a virus, antibiotics are of no use.
Should I have the flu jab?
While the flu jab will not have any impact on the COVID-19 virus specifically, if you are within one of the at risk groups, it can reduce your chances of contracting the flu, which can cause further complications. As such we would recommend having the flu jab.
Is there a COVID-19 vaccine?
Experts say a vaccine is approximately 18 months away.
What can I do to reduce my chance of infection?
The single most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water or, if hand washing facilities are not available, a hand sanitising gel. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that, while the face mask is becoming ubiquitous, wearing gloves is much more effective as a preventative measure, as it avoids surface to hand to mouth/eye spread of the virus.
How can the UK prepare for Coronavirus?
Hospitals need to be prepared for a large influx of patients, stockpiling any antivirals, and advising the public that, when the time comes, they will need to think about things like staying at home if they are experiencing symptoms and distancing themselves socially. Hospitals may plan to postpone routine appointments or surgery.
People may slowly start to stock up on non-perishable food items to last their households through several weeks of self isolation at home, during an intense wave of transmission in their community.
Is there a cure for COVID-19?
There is no simple cure for the new coronavirus – just as there is no cure for the common cold.
I have a holiday booked later this year, should I be cancelling?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is updating its travel advice daily. They are being very clear about the need to limit all but essential travel to affected countries, and travellers should respect this. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus . If you have upcoming holidays planned, check with your holiday provider to see if they have any contingency measures in place. Some airlines are offering passengers the option to rebook for a later date or an alternative destination. It would also be worth checking your holiday insurance to see what measures they are putting in place.
I think I may have contracted COVID-19. What should I do?
If you do think you may have contracted Coronavirus do not go to a GP surgery, community pharmacy or hospital. Call 111, stay indoors and avoid close contact with other people.
Authored by Dr Roisin Mchugh, on 1 March 2020.