You will all be aware of the infectious coronavirus that is currently spreading through Asia as a result of the daily reports seen in our media.
The virus is part of the same family as the SARS virus which killed over 600 people in the early part of this century and there currently is no known cure.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention describe the virus as causing “mild to moderate respiratory tract illnesses that are similar to the common cold”.
Symptoms of the virus are also similar to those for the common cold and may include a runny nose, coughs, a sore throat, headaches or a fever.
The danger with coronavirus is that it can quickly develop into more severe diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis, both of which are major killers in older people, especially around this time of year. People who already suffer from weakened immune systems are also potentially at risk.
Like a cold or flu, the virus is most commonly spread through the air as a result of people coughing and sneezing, it can be spread through close physical contact such as shaking of hands and it can also be contracted by touching a surface area that is already contaminated with the virus.
Whilst the risk of infection in the UK is small and there are no confirmed cases in this country at the time of writing (8 cases as of 10 Feb), it makes sense to be alert and to follow some simple, but effective advice on how to keep safe. These include making sure that you regularly wash your hands in warm water, using soap for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and avoiding close contact with people who currently have a cold or flu. In essence, everything that you should probably be doing anyway to stave off cold or flu at this time of year.
Likewise, if you are currently suffering from a cold or flu like symptoms then it is best to stay at home to avoid the risk of passing on your symptoms to others and of course, always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
The NHS have robust systems and procedures in place to cope with any emergency like this that can strike from time to time. The risk of infection in the UK is currently considered low but people are urged to remain alert and vigilant.