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What is coronavirus and what are the symptoms? What is coronavirus and what are the symptoms?
(about 8 hours later)
A virus causing severe lung disease that started in China has spread to more than 60 countries, including the UK. Coronavirus has spread to more than 60 countries, including the UK.
The coronavirus had infected 79,929 people in China as of 2 March, with 2,872 of them dying. So, what is the disease and what can you do to protect yourself?
What are the symptoms? What are the coronavirus symptoms?
It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, it leads to shortness of breath and some patients require hospital treatment.
After a week, it leads to shortness of breath and some patients require hospital treatment. These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness and are similar to those for much more common viruses, such as colds and flu.
The incubation period - between infection and showing any symptoms - lasts up to 14 days, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In more severe cases, coronavirus can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, multiple organ failure and even death.
But some researchers say it may be as long as 24 days. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), are more likely to become severely ill.
And Chinese scientists say some people may be infectious even before their symptoms appear. The incubation period - between infection and showing any symptoms - lasts up to 14 days, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. But some researchers say it may be up to 24 days.
How deadly is the coronavirus? How do I protect myself?
Based on data from 44,000 patients with this coronavirus, the WHO says: Regular and thorough hand washing is crucial in the fight to avoid picking up the disease, health agencies say.
The proportion dying from the disease, which has been named Covid-19, appears low (between 1% and 2%) - but the figures are unreliable. It is not yet known exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. However, similar viruses are spread via droplets, such as those produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
So, coughing and sneezing into tissues, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and trying to avoid close contact with infected people are important.
What should I do if I think I have coronavirus?
The NHS says the risk to individuals in the UK remains low.
But people who think they may be affected by coronavirus need to call the NHS 111 phone service for further advice. They should not go to their GP, or A&E.
If you have come into contact with somebody who may be infected, you may be told to self-isolate. People needing to do so should take "common-sense" steps to avoid close contact with other people, says Public Health England.
Advice for people who have travelled back to the UK from the main affected areas and some other countries has been issued by the government. Full details of the countries concerned and whether you need to self-isolate are available here.
The Foreign Office advises against all travel to Hubei province and all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China, Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea and 11 small towns in northern Italy.
How fast is it spreading and will I get it?
Hundreds of new cases are being reported worldwide each day. However, it is thought health agencies may be unaware of many cases.
After starting in China, coronavirus is now spreading fast in countries like South Korea, Italy and Iran.
How deadly is coronavirus and will I get better?
Four out of five people who contract coronavirus will only experience mild symptoms, a WHO examination of data from 56,000 patients says. It suggests:
The proportion dying from the disease appears low (between 1% and 2%) - but the figures are unreliable.
Thousands are still being treated but may go on to die - so the death rate could be higher. But it is also unclear how many mild cases remain unreported - so the death rate could also be lower.Thousands are still being treated but may go on to die - so the death rate could be higher. But it is also unclear how many mild cases remain unreported - so the death rate could also be lower.
To put this into context, about one billion people catch influenza every year, with between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths. The severity of flu changes every year.To put this into context, about one billion people catch influenza every year, with between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths. The severity of flu changes every year.
Can coronavirus be treated or cured?
Right now, treatment relies on the basics - keeping the patient's body going, including breathing support, until their immune system can fight off the virus.Right now, treatment relies on the basics - keeping the patient's body going, including breathing support, until their immune system can fight off the virus.
However, the work to develop a vaccine is under way and it is hoped there will be human trials before the end of the year.However, the work to develop a vaccine is under way and it is hoped there will be human trials before the end of the year.
Hospitals are also testing anti-viral drugs to see if they have an impact.Hospitals are also testing anti-viral drugs to see if they have an impact.
How can I protect myself?
See more advice from the WHO here.
What is the advice in the UK?
Anyone experiencing symptoms, even if mild, after travelling from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days, is advised to stay indoors and call the NHS 111 phone service.
If you have returned from the following specific areas since February 19, you should call NHS 111 and stay indoors and avoid contact with other people even if you do not have symptoms:
If you have returned from the following areas since February 19 and develop symptoms - even mild ones - stay indoors, avoid contact with others and call NHS 111:
The Foreign Office now advises against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto in Italy, which have been isolated by the country's authorities
How fast is it spreading?
Thousands of new cases are being reported each day. However, analysts believe the true scale could be 10 times larger than official figures.
Outbreaks have now occurred in South Korea, Italy and Iran, raising fears that it could become a pandemic. A pandemic is declared when an infectious disease threatens different parts of the world simultaneously.
The WHO has said it is concerned about the number of cases with no clear link to China or other confirmed cases. It has said the window of opportunity to contain the virus was "narrowing".
With colds and flu tending to spread fastest in the winter, there is hope the turning of the seasons may help stem the outbreak.
However, a different strain of coronavirus - Middle East respiratory syndrome - emerged in the summer, in Saudi Arabia, so there's no guarantee warmer weather will halt the outbreak.
How did it start?
This virus is not really "new" - it is just new to humans, having jumped from one species to another.
Many of the early cases were linked to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan.
In China, a lot of people come into close contact with animals harbouring viruses - and the country's dense urban population means the disease can be easily spread.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which is also caused by a coronavirus, started off in bats and then infected the civet cat, which in turn passed it on to humans.
The Sars outbreak, which started in China in 2002, killed 774 of the 8,098 people infected.
The current virus - one of seven types of coronavirus - does not seem to be mutating so far. But while it appears stable, this is something scientists will be watching closely.
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This explainer will be regularly updated to reflect the audience's questions about coronavirus. Details of how to get in touch are below.This explainer will be regularly updated to reflect the audience's questions about coronavirus. Details of how to get in touch are below.
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