COVID-19 or as it is more commonly known, the coronavirus, is the latest global pandemic that’s sending the world into a frenzy. Within weeks, everything has turned upside down; events are being cancelled, schools and universities are closing for the foreseeable future and people have begun stockpiling on essential items in case of quarantine. But what actually is the coronavirus? How can we prevent ourselves from catching it and consequently infecting others? Here’s our essential guide to COVID-19:

What is the coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus is a disease that affects the respiratory system and can lead to illness ranging from a common cold to more serious respiratory diseases. The coronavirus we hear about today comes from a larger family of coronaviruses which can cause illness in both animals and humans. COVID-19 is the most recently discovered strand of the coronavirus, which was found upon the outbreak during December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

How do you catch it?

The disease is commonly be caught from people who are already infected with it when they cough or sneeze.

When someone who is already infected coughs or sneezes, the infectious particles from their nose or mouth then land on surfaces for other people to pick up, therefore continuing the cycle. By making contact with these infected surfaces and then touching your own face or eyes, this allows COVID-19 to enter your own system, causing you to become infected with it. You can also become infected through breathing in particles released from people with the disease, which is why the World Health Organisation recommends you stay more than a metre away from someone who is ill at all times.

There is also the question of can you catch the coronavirus from someone who isn’t infected with it? The answer is that there is a very low risk of this happening, however, sometimes people who have COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms. Therefore, you may think that they’re not infected with it when in actual fact they are, leaving you at risk. The general rule of thumb here is that you should keep your distance from anyone who is experiencing even mild coronavirus symptoms to give yourself the best chance of avoiding infection.

What are the symptoms?

The World Health Organization states that the most common symptoms of coronavirus are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. This is not an exhausted list of symptoms though, as you could also experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, a sore throat and diarrhoea.

Distinguishing between the symptoms of COVID-19 and other common illnesses many people get around this time of year can be difficult, especially as most people who are infected with it experience little difference to what they would experience if they were instead to have a cold or the flu. In fact, some people who have the coronavirus are unaware they have it and do not feel particularly ill at all. This is why the advice to everyone is to stay indoors and self-isolate for seven days if you start to feel unwell to prevent the further spread of infection.

in bed

Should I be worried?

The coronavirus is generally quite mild, and only a small proportion of people actually need serious medical care as a result of it. For example, the World Health Organization has said that 1 in 5 people who catch the disease will need hospital care, however, around 80% of people recover from it without needing any special treatment at all.

For young people, the risk of serious illness is generally low. Yet, COVID-19 becomes more serious when it is passed on to people with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly and people with underlying health issues, as these are the types of people who will find it more difficult to fight the disease off. So, extra precaution should be taken to make sure that the infection is not passed onto people who fall under this category.

What can I do to stop myself from getting the coronavirus?

Here are our top five tips to make sure you stay COVID-19 free…

  1. Wash your hands! This is probably the most important one of them all as your hands are the part of your body that collects the most germs. Wash your hands often and avoid touching metal surfaces as the germs causing the coronavirus can survive here for a long period of time.
  2. Keep your distance between yourself and someone who is coughing or sneezing – the World Health Organization recommends 1 metre.
  3. Don’t touch your face. Try not to touch your nose, mouth and eyes as these are some of the most common points of contamination.
  4. Stay at home if you’re feeling unwell. This advice is to not only protect your condition from worsening but also to protect others from potential infection. The Government has recommended seven days if you are just starting to feel ill as a precaution.
  5. Try not to travel or go to any large gatherings where people could be carrying the virus. Granted, this has been made easier by the fact that travel to most other countries has been restricted and many events have been cancelled, including football matches and concerts. Yet, more people are being encouraged to practice social distancing and to stay away from large crowds.

What should I do if I feel ill?

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, the advice given by the government is to self-isolate and to stay at home for a minimum of seven days. If your condition worsens, ring 111 for more advice. People are encouraged not to go to the GP or the hospital unless advised to do so by medical professionals.