Dr John Forni, Medical Therapeutic Area (TA) Head for Immunology, Hepatology and Dermatology (IHD), explains what coronavirus is and shares some practical advice on the precautions we should take. It is important to stay up-to-date and follow all advice and guidance issued by the UK government.
1. What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus – now known as SARS-CoV-2 – is a novel virus, which means it has not been previously seen in humans. Acquiring SARS-CoV-2 could lead to COVID-19, which is the disease or symptoms associated with having the infection1,2. As this is a relatively new infection, we are constantly learning more about it. It is primarily transmitted through the respiratory route and the virus enters the environment through droplets, which are caused by sneezing or coughing2. Therefore, it is important to ensure that we adhere to the government’s advice for social distancing by keeping ourselves at least two metres apart3.
2. What are the symptoms?
Some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Some people also experience muscle ache, fatigue and headache4. Recently, it has been reported that loss of taste and smell may pre-date these symptoms5.
3. What should you do?
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, it is important to self-isolate for at least seven days. If after seven days you still have a temperature, you must continue to self-isolate until the temperature abates. If you are living with other people that experience symptoms then you need to self-isolate for fourteen days from the first day that this individual experienced symptoms4. Coronavirus can also live outside of the body on certain surfaces. The amount of time the virus can exist outside on these surfaces is still yet to be determined6. It is therefore important that we use warm water and soap or appropriate sanitation products to keep surfaces clean, especially in our homes7.
4. What precautions should you take?
Current guidelines state that we must follow social distancing, which means keeping two metres apart. We must wash our hands regularly using warm water and soap or using hand sanitisers, if possible3.
1 Chen Y, Li L. Lancet Infect Dis. 2020 May;20(5):515-516. DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30235-8. Epub 2020 Mar 23.
2 World Health Organization. Coronavirus. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1(Accessed May 2020)
3 UK Government. Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do. https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus (Accessed May 2020)
4 NHS UK. Check if you have coronavirus symptoms. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/check-if-you-have-coronavirus-symptoms/. (Accessed May 2020)
5 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of coronavirus. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html (Accessed May 2020)
6 van Doremalen N et al. N Engl J Med. 2020 Apr 16;382(16):1564-1567. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973. Epub 2020 Mar 17.
7 NHS UK. Staying at home and away from other people (social distancing). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/staying-at-home-to-avoid-getting-coronavirus/staying-at-home-and-away-from-other-people/ (Accessed May 2020)