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What to do about the coronavirus

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The rapid spread of coronavirus over the last month or so has become a great concern for many people. However, for those of us looking after frail or vulnerable loved ones, it’s vitally important to understand all about the disease and how to prevent it.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a type of virus that bring on conditions like the flu and the common cold. However, this particular strain of coronavirus – called COVID-19 – is new and unfamiliar to us, meaning our bodies’ immune systems don’t know exactly how to fight it off right now.

A vaccine is currently being worked on, but it will take quite some time before it would be widely available. To make matters worse, COVID-19 seems to be spreading much quicker than other viruses typically do. This means that while we wait for a vaccine, we’ll need to take extra care of our hygiene and contact with others – especially those with pre-existing medical issues.

How do I defend myself and my loved ones?

As this virus is new to us, we’re not entirely certain how it passes from one person to another. We know that similar viruses spread through coughs and sneezes in the air, so it’s always best to ensure you use tissues if you ever need to cough or sneeze and dispose of them straight away.

As an extra precaution, frequent hand washing will help to prevent you catching the virus, or spreading it if you have it but don’t realise. In recent days, hand sanitiser gels have been in such high demand, they’ve been flying off the shelves. If you can’t get hold of any, remember that soap and warm water are just as effective.

Try to avoid touching your own face or coming into close contact with others. Of course, this is easier said than done – especially for those of us who provide regular care to loved ones! However, you can always wear protective gloves when helping others to prevent the risk of any diseases spreading.

What to do if you feel ill

With the changing of the season, colds and sniffles commonly occur around this time of year and the symptoms are very similar to that of coronavirus. However, cases of coronavirus have notably begun with fevers or high temperatures, followed by a dry cough.

The virus causes respiratory problems and patients have experienced shortness of breath after about a week. This can lead to more serious problems, especially for older people or those with pre-existing medical conditions. If you think you or a loved one may be affected, the first point of call should be to ring the NHS emergency advice line 111, rather than going to a GP or A&E.

The NHS advice may tell you to self-isolate, which means staying at home and avoiding contact with others. This can be a major concern if you usually provide care for a loved one, and you may need to seek out additional help from other family members, friends or professional caregivers to step in temporarily.

Should I be worried about coronavirus?

The risk to individuals in the UK remains low at present. In the vast majority of cases, people only develop mild symptoms and recover soon after. These mild cases account for around 80% of all people affected by COVID-19, according to a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO examined data from 56,000 patients reported to show signs of this strain of coronavirus, which goes on to suggest that around 6% becoming severely ill and requiring hospital treatment. As these are early figures, they aren’t entirely reliable at this stage, especially as there may be many more mild cases that aren’t detected as coronavirus.

It’s important to remain vigilant in your cleanliness and hygiene routine, and to not become too fearful as most people are unlikely to come into contact with the virus. It’s also worth remembering not to panic at the first sign of a cough or a sneeze. Simply stay calm and follow the NHS 111 advice for further assurance.