A new strain of coronavirus, that had not previously been identified, was detected in China in late December and has now spread internationally.

Should we be worried? Here is everything we know about the Coronavirus.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from a common cold to much more serious infections such as the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) & Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Coronaviruses are common in many species of animals, however infrequently these viruses can infect and spread between humans.

This is the case with the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV), which is a strain that had not previously been identified in humans. The strain is thought to have originated in snakes, however the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state they still don’t know why this coronavirus has spread to humans.

The World Health Organisation have now announced the official name for the novel coronavirus - 𝗖𝗢𝗩𝗜𝗗-𝟭𝟵. The CO stands for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on 31 Dec 2019.

Symptoms of the coronavirus

For most healthy people the novel coronavirus will cause mild flu-like symptoms including: 

  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • fever
  • chills
  • aching

For people in higher risk groups such as the elderly and people with preexisting medical conditions, the virus can be more serious. Potential symptoms can include breathing difficulties, pneumonia or in the most severe cases, death.

However, it is important to mention that the total number of recoveries from novel coronavirus far outweighs the number of people who have passed away as a result of the virus. You can see up to date information on the number of confirmed cases, recoveries and deaths here: Coronavirus 2019-nCoV Global Cases

How is the coronavirus transmitted?

Coronavirus transmission is respiratory. The virus is spread from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient.

Patients with the virus can easily spread the infection when they speak, sneeze or cough near someone who then comes into direct contact with these infected droplets. It is also believed that the novel coronavirus can survive as droplets on surfaces for several hours. This means touching an infected surface before touching your eyes, nose or mouth can also put you at risk.

What precautions can you take?

As the novel coronavirus is easily transmitted through droplets, it is important to take steps to limit the spread of the virus and protect your health.

The advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Maintain distance between yourself and others (particularly those who appear unwell)
  • Use simple disinfectants to kill the virus 

It is recommended that infected patients stay in isolation for 14 days and wear a face mask around other people to minimise the chance of exposure.

Treatment for the coronavirus

If you suspect you have the coronavirus, seek medical advice but do not go straight to a doctor’s surgery or hospital as you risk spreading the virus to others.

To date there is no specific medicine recommended to treat the novel coronavirus. Most healthy people will be able to recover from the virus on their own, however the symptoms can be treated with over the counter flu medication.

There are currently no vaccines to prevent coronavirus, although scientists are working fast to develop one before the virus develops into a widespread pandemic.

Note: Antibiotics are not effective against any viruses – including the coronavirus.

This is a developing story, for updated information and guidance, please visit the World Health Organisation who are working closely with experts and governments to provide daily updates and advice and prevent the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus.

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