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Coronavirus: Know the facts

According to the NHS website, Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways and below are some commonly asked questions which will distil some of the many myths surrounding the virus

08 April 2020

Below is the latest guidance on COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do

Stay at home
Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
Wash your hands as soon as you get home

You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

Material published by Public Health England

Public Health England updates a daily dashboard later the same day, to show trends in UK data on positive tests and deaths and to provide confirmed cases in each local authority and NHS region in England.

Risk level

The risk to the UK has been raised to high.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice

Foreign Office travel advice is constantly under review, so that it reflects the government’s latest assessment of risks to British people.

In response to coronavirus measures the government is advising against all and all but essential travel to some countries, cities and regions.

You must check the travel advice to the country you are travelling to.

Health protection regulations

The government published its coronavirus action plan on 3 March.

On 10 February, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced strengthened legal powers to protect public health.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 have been put in place to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission in this country by keeping individuals in isolation where public health professionals believe there is a reasonable risk an individual may have the virus.

Information about the virus

A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

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

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China.

Diagnosis and analysis

Based on current evidence, novel coronavirus (COVID-19) presents with flu-like symptoms including a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing. The current evidence is that most cases appear to be mild. Those who have died in Wuhan appear to have had pre-existing health conditions.

The UK is now one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease. Healthcare professionals who are contacted by a patient with symptoms following travel to Wuhan have been advised to submit samples to PHE for testing. Individuals should be treated in isolation

After the experience of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, PHE developed a series of diagnostic tests to detect any member of the family of coronaviruses. These have been used for several years, and were able to detect the first UK case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012.

With the first reported publication of the genome sequence of a 2019 novel coronavirus, PHE was able to rapidly develop further specific tests for this virus, working with WHO and global network of laboratories.

When a clinician suspects novel coronavirus (COVID-19), they take samples from the nose, throat and deeper respiratory samples, package and send them safely to PHE Colindale. PHE can provide a laboratory result from this specific virus on the same working day.

PHE also has the capability to sequence the viral genome and compare this to published sequences from China, if a case occurs. This will provide valuable information on any mutations in the virus over time and allow an improved understanding of how it spreads.

Information sources: NHS website and Gov.uk.

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