THE coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of people around the world – with cases in over one hundred countries.
And in the UK alone, the confirmed number of those infected with Covid-19 now stands at nearly 100,000 with the death toll rising to 12,868.
Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus is the name for a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS.
The new disease that emerged in China in December has never been seen in humans before the current outbreak.
It’s been called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by the World Health Organisation and causes an illness that’s now named Covid-19.
The new strain is thought to have jumped from bats to humans, via a possible but unknown animal, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
What are the early warning signs?
As Covid-19 is a new virus, experts are still working to understand it.
However, health officials say the most common symptoms of coronavirus infection usually include:
Some people will not develop all of these symptoms – and some might not even show symptoms at all, experts say.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said: “It looks quite likely that there is some degree of asymptomatic transmission.
“There’s definitely quite a lot of transmission very early in the disease when there are very mild symptoms.”
Around one out of every six who gets Covid-19 become seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing, according to the WHO.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are at most risk developing serious illness.
This can include pneumonia and swelling in the lungs, which can make it hard for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream – leading to organ failure and death.
Severe pneumonia can kill people by causing them to “drown” in the fluid flooding their lungs.
People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention, the WHO says.
How does coronavirus differ from flu?
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and the common cold.
However, with the flu, symptoms can come on much quicker than with coronavirus.
According to the NHS, signs of flu include:
- A sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
- An aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- A dry cough
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Feeling sick and being sick
You can treat yourself for flu by getting rest and staying warm.
Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen can lower your temperature and treat aches and pains.
Drinking plenty of water will help avoid dehydration.
The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu, as well as spreading it to others.
It’s more effective to get the vaccine before the start of the flu season, which tends to run from December to March.
How quickly do coronavirus symptoms come on?
The virus is believed to be transmitted between people through droplets spread from coughing and touching or shaking hands.
While sneezing is not a symptom of the new coronavirus, it also thought to be a way that droplets can be spread.
Symptoms are thought to appear between two and 11 days.
To find out more about whether you should travel, click on your country of choice: Is it safe to travel to Tenerife, Italy, Austria, Greece and Thailand.
New research has found that the average incubation period of Covid-19 is 5.1 days.
A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US found that almost all (97.5 per cent) of those who develop symptoms appeared to do so within 11.5 days of infection.
Experts say there is little evidence to suggest that people can spread the virus without showing symptoms.
When should I seek help?
You should only call NHS 111 – the coronavirus number – if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, your condition gets worse or you do not recover within seven days.
If you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, you can follow this link to find out if you are likely to have coronavirus.
Do not leave your house without getting advice from a doctor.
How can I protect myself?
The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene, health experts say.
In order to reduce your risk of infection, you should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with others.
You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands.
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.
More on coronavirus
Can it be treated?
Currently, there is no vaccine to protect people against the virus.
Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses – only bacteria.
The NHS says that treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.
Those who are infected will need to stay in isolation away from other people until they have recovered.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing are government-recommended measures you can take to reduce social interaction with other people and help prevent coronavirus from spreading.
They are to:
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
- Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
The government also recommends that you keep at least two metres away from anyone who is not part of your household.
What other symptoms have coronavirus patients experienced?
The only proven symptoms of coronavirus, and therefore the only ones which require further action, are a dry cough, a fever/high temperature and shortage of breath.
However, there are a number of other mild symptoms which have been experienced by some patients. These include:
- Stomach ache
- Eye infections and loss of taste/smell
- Brain fog