What is the Coronavirus?
The Coronavirus is formally called “novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)”, which is in the same family of infections as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Currently, scientists in China and all over the world are still working to confirm the exact source of the virus. China’s Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin at a news conference in Beijing said the virus can be passed from person to person, but animals are usually the origin of coronaviruses. The infection is thought to have originated in a seafood market which also sold illegal wildlife meat in Wuhan, which now has been closed and sealed off by local government to limit potential spread.
Beijing also confirmed that the illness is transmitted via the respiratory tract and there is the possibility of viral mutation and further spread of the disease.
The WHO explained the common signs of coronavirus infection include:
- Respiratory symptoms
- Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.
But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.
The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
How coronavirus is spread?
Because it's a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person.
Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.
It's very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.
How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus
wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
always wash your hands when you get home or into work
use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Check if you need medical help
NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
Use this service if:
- you think you might have coronavirus
- in the last 14 days you've been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus – see coronavirus advice for travellers
- you've been in close contact with someone with coronavirus
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.
How to self-isolate if you're asked to
If there's a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).
This means you should:
- stay at home
- not go to work, school or public places
- not use public transport or taxis
- ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
- try to avoid visitors to your home – it's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food
You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.
Read more coronavirus self-isolation advice.