Coronavirus questions answered: symptoms, latest advice and how it compares with flu

Yahoo Style UK
Masks may stop infected patients spreading the virus. Coronavirus sufferers should 'self isolate' by staying indoors as much as possible. (Getty Images)
Masks may stop infected patients spreading the virus. Coronavirus sufferers should 'self isolate' by staying indoors as much as possible. (Getty Images)

The coronavirus outbreak is making headlines all over the world.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

News of rising numbers of patients and deaths is leaving many people anxious that they may also catch the infection.

To help the public stay up-to-date on all they need to know, Yahoo UK has answered the most common coronavirus questions.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are not new, but the ongoing outbreak is a new strain.

Strains are generally defined as subtype of a particular virus or bacteria, and other coronavirus strains can cause the common cold.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) is also a coronavirus. It killed 774 people during its 2002/3 outbreak.

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world

Fact-checker: The number of COVID-19 cases in your local area

Another is Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), which killed 858 people in 2012.

The new strain – the COVID-19 virus – is thought to have come from a seafood and live animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, at the end of 2019.

The market sold a range of dead and live animals, including chickens, hedgehogs, snakes and donkeys.

Most of those who initially became ill worked at, or visited, the market.

Close contact with animals may have caused the virus to “jump” into humans.

Some scientists believe the strain may have started in bats, before “jumping” into snakes or scaly anteater pangolins, and then infecting humans.

What are the symptoms?

Four out of five people who catch the coronavirus have mild symptoms.

These include fever, cough, fatigue and slight breathlessness.

Some have also complained of a runny or stuffy nose, as well as sneezing and a sore throat.

Others develop diarrhoea and aches and pains.

Some patients have reported losing their sense of smell and taste, as well as developing sore, pink eyes. These are not recognised as common symptoms, however.

Headaches, nausea and vomiting are also not common signs of infection.

In severe cases, patients develop pneumonia.

This occurs when an infection of the airways spreads to the air sacs in the lungs, causing them to become inflamed and filled with fluid or pus.

Breathlessness is a common symptom of pneumonia, with some patients requiring hospital care.

How do the symptoms compare to cold and flu?

The coronavirus has come about during the UK’s cold and flu season.

This may cause some who get the sniffles to worry they have the infection.

The chart below shows how the similarities and differences between the symptoms of colds, flu and the coronavirus.

Coronavirus shares some, but not all, symptoms with cold and flu. (Yahoo UK)
Coronavirus shares some, but not all, symptoms with cold and flu. (Yahoo UK)

All three conditions cause fever and cough. Unlike the coronavirus, however, colds and flu do not make patients short of breath.

Fatigue is a common symptom for flu and the coronavirus, but not colds.

The coronavirus can spread by sneezing, but it is an uncommon symptom.

Sneezing often occurs with colds, but not flu.

The coronavirus sometimes causes aches and pains, as well as a runny or stuffed nose and sore throat – all symptoms that are common with colds and flu.

Diarrhoea does not occur with colds, but can sometimes come about with flu and the coronavirus.

Headaches are common with both colds and flu, but not the coronavirus.

What should I do if I think I have the coronavirus?

UK officials are urging all members of a household to self-isolate entirely for 14 days if just one person has the tell-tale fever or cough.

These individuals should avoid leaving the house even to buy “food or essentials”.

They may exercise if they keep a “safe distance” from others, generally considered to be two metres (6.5ft).

Those who live alone and develop symptoms, even if mild, are being told to self-isolate for seven days.

Even Britons not with suspected symptoms have been told to stay indoors, leaving only to buy essentials or exercise.

Suspected or confirmed patients who live with others should stay in a different room and sleep alone, if possible.

They would also ideally use their own bathroom, and avoid pets and other animals.

Patients may need to see a doctor but should call ahead, letting them know they could have the coronavirus.

The medic can then take steps to prevent others catching the infection.

Government officials have also asked suspected patients to no longer call the non-emergency number NHS 111 if they have symptoms due to the service being under strain.

Information can be found on the NHS’ website and 111 online.

The government states you can call 111 if your symptoms worsen, or have not improved, during or after isolation. Those without internet access can also call.

In an emergency, dial 999, letting the operator known you may have the coronavirus.

If they have to be around others, patients should wear a mask.

Some find masks make breathing difficult. In this case, the people around the patient should wear masks when in the same room.

Patients should cough or sneeze into a tissue that then immediately gets thrown away into its own bin bag.

These should be “double bagged”, tied securely and kept in the same room as the patient for at least 72 hours before being added to other household waste, which can be disposed of as normal.

Washing hands regularly with soap and water, or a sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol, is important to protect others from infection.

Hands should be washed for around 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

Do this after sneezing or coughing, before preparing or eating food and after using the toilet.

It is also important not to share dishes, drinking glasses, cutlery, towels or bedding.

Bedding and “dirty” clothes can be washed as normal with other laundry items. Dirty laundry should not be “shook” as this may disperse the virus.

For those without a washing machine, wait a further 72 hours after a seven-day isolation before taking items to the laundrette.

Surfaces that are touched often – kitchen counters, doorknobs, phones and keyboards – should be disinfected regularly with a household cleaner.

A health worker in a mask and protective suit waits to take passengers' temperature at the German-Polish border in Swiecko, Poland, on 11 March. (Getty Images)
A health worker in a mask and protective suit waits to take passengers' temperature at the German-Polish border in Swiecko, Poland, on 11 March. (Getty Images)

What is the latest government advice?

The government is advising people to avoid infection by following the above instructions, particularly when it comes to hand-washing and staying at home.

Britons abroad have been urged to contact their airline to arrange a return flight to the UK as soon as possible.

People with serious underlying health issues – like severe asthmatics or blood-cancer patients – have been told to self-isolate entirely for three months.

For everyone else, officials are urging they avoid using the NHS unless they absolutely have to.

Most people who are becoming seriously ill are elderly or already have an illness, like asthma or diabetes.

If you know a vulnerable person, call them to check how they are feeling.

For those awaiting a non-emergency NHS operation, procedures in England will be postponed from 15 April for at least three months.

Where can I get more information?

Rather than call NHS 111, check its website for more information.

The government has released “stay at home guidance” for those with a suspected or confirmed infection.

The NHS has more information on how the virus spreads, mainly via cough and sneezes.

Britons can also learn how the government plans to tackle the virus in its action plan.

What to Read Next

Back