IT’S the conversation on everyone’s lips: How do we cope with the coronavirus pandemic?
As the world tackles what has been called “the worst public health crisis in a generation”, Xclusive UG is bringing you a special series of guides on how to manage in the health emergence.
From dealing with symptoms to how to survive if you need to isolate, we will have advice and tips from a host experts and specialists.
With the picture changing daily we will offer an up-to-date source of advice. Today, we answer all your major questions on how to keep your family safe.
Q: HOW do you catch the coronavirus?
A: The virus, Covid-19, is spread through respiratory droplets expelled through coughing and sneezing.
You can catch it from inhaling these droplets. Covid-19 can also survive on surfaces, so touching these surfaces then eating with your hands or touching your mouth, eyes or nose can also spread it.
Q: WHAT are the symptoms of Covid-19?
A: The main symptoms of coronavirus are a fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Q: WHAT can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of disease?
A: The primary way to protect yourself is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly and effectively, especially before you eat, and as soon as you come into your house or workplace.
If soap and water is not available you can use hand sanitiser. You should also avoid touching your face, and try and keep a distance from anyone coughing and sneezing around you.
If you show symptoms, you are advised to self-isolate for a week to ensure you do not spread it to others.
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, ideally into a tissue, which you should then throw away — catch it, kill it, bin it.
Q: WHO is at greater risk of developing a severe illness?
A: For most, the symptoms will be mild to moderate, but for the elderly or those with underlying health conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, the symptoms and complications can be severe and may include breathing difficulties. In severe cases, there can be organ failure.
Q: WHAT is the best thing to use for washing hands?
A: You simply need to wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or more.
It doesn’t matter what type of soap you use. Even washing-up liquid will work fine, but so would your granny’s bar of soap.
Q: COULD I have the virus without even knowing?
A: For the young and fit, some may have such mild symptoms and may not even realise they have the virus.
Q: AM I at greater risk because I’m pregnant, and is there a risk to my baby?
A: While the data is limited, there is no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are more susceptible to coronavirus or that it will be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy.
Pregnant women are advised to take the same precautions as everyone else.
Q: SHOULD I avoid elderly relatives even if I don’t have symptoms?
A: While it is important to protect elderly relatives, it is also important to ensure they are not becoming socially isolated.
If you feel well in yourself, there is no reason you cannot see them but do ensure strict hand hygiene.
Q: IS it safe to still go to work?
A: Different work places will have different thresholds for closing down their sites and offices, and many are encouraging working from home.
However, if you are feeling well there is no reason to self-isolate and you can continue going to work, but do persist in practising good hand hygiene.
Q: SHOULD I try to avoid crowded places such as supermarkets and shopping centres?
A: At present there are no guidelines or limitations on going to public or crowded spaces, though as more and more countries go into lockdown, this is expected to change in the coming days.
However, if you are elderly or have underlying health conditions, it is advisable to exercise caution in attending large gatherings where your risk of catching coronavirus is higher.
Q: I HAVE a cough but I’ve not been to any affected areas or in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed. Should I self-isolate?
A: The current advice is to self-isolate for one week if you have a fever or new and continuous cough, however mild.
This is the case even if you have not been to a high-risk country or have been in contact with a known coronavirus patient.
Q: I’VE been feeling ill. When can I go back to work?
A: After seven days, if you feel better and no longer have a fever. At that point you can return to your normal routine.
Q: SHOULD I start stocking up on essential items such as tinned foods and toilet roll?
A: Coronavirus is a long game, and is something we are likely to be tackling for several months to come.
It is not advantageous to stockpile large quantities of items as this only perpetuates the issue that we are facing of empty supermarket aisles.
This behaviour primarily affects the more vulnerable population suchas the elderly or disabled who will find it hard to attend multiple supermarkets trying to buy essentials.
It is reasonable to have enough goods to last you a week while in self-isolation.
Q: CAN taking vitamin tablets help?
A: A well-rounded diet is usually enough to optimise your immune system, but if you do not have a healthy, balanced diet, you may benefit from vitamin supplements.
However, while they may help “boost” your immune system, they will not treat or cure coronavirus.
Q: CAN you get coronavirus more than once?
A: Most infections provide at least a short-term immunity from being reinfected.
However, there have been some cases of patients testing positive for coronavirus soon after discharge despite having recovered from the initial infection.
Researchers suspect that rather than them having been “reinfected”, there were actually flaws in the testing process whereby low levels of the virus were not properly detected when they were discharged from hospital in the first place.
Other studies suggest that people may still test positive long after recovery. So while it cannot be entirely ruled out that you could catch it twice, it is unlikely.
Q: IF I have a cold, should I stay off work?
A: It has now been advised that if you develop a fever or a cough, however mild the symptoms, you should self-isolate for seven days.
If you develop or a cough, you should self-isolate and stay off work for seven days.
Q: SHOULD I avoid using public transport?
A: The Government at present isn’t restricting the use of public transport.
We are aware that close contact with someone with coronavirus increases your risk of catching it, and that has been defined as being within two metres of someone for more than 15 minutes.
This is of course possible on public transport. While in the young and healthy it is unlikely to pose a significant threat, in the elderly or those with underlying health conditions, caution should be practised when exposing yourself to crowds, especially in poorly ventilated areas.
Q: WHAT is the risk to children?
A: The evidence so far has suggested that children are not affected to the same degree as adults.
This sparing of children has sparked scientific curiosity because this is a very different pattern to that seen in other strains of the flu.
Q ARE hand sanitisers more effective than using soap?
A: Washing your hands well with soap and water is more effective than using hand sanitiser, which is the next best option.
Q: CAN I be contagious without having symptoms?
A People are thought to be most contagious when they are at their sickest, but some spread may be possible before people show symptoms though this is not thought to be the main way in which the virus will spread.
However, as the symptoms for many people will be mild, they may not even realise they have coronavirus and could therefore be contagious without knowing.
Q: IF I have symptoms, should my whole family self-isolate?
A: At present the advice is simply to avoid contact with others in the house as best you can.
If a family member develops symptoms, they too will need to self-isolate for seven days from the onset of their symptoms.
Q: What does the term “herd immunity” mean?
A: There is a hope that, as the virus passes through the country, we will develop “herd immunity”.
This is when enough people become resistant to a disease, it can no longer spread among the rest of the population.
Because Covid-19 is a new disease, none of us has immunity.
But if enough people get the virus — and so become resistant to a second bout — the virus will struggle to find anyone to spread to, and the numbers will start to decline.
Q: WHAT is social distancing and should I be doing it?
A: Social isolation might mean not saying hello close up, not shaking hands, or it can be self-isolating.
But if you are parent who needs to look after children, this can be very difficult.
It only works as far as it is feasible. The advice is to stay three metres away from people if you can around the house.
If you can stick to these rules, it certainly won’t do any harm. But if you do shake hands with someone, for example, you need to wash them.
Q: CAN I go out for a walk if I’m self-isolating?
A No. Self-isolating means staying at home. If you have a garden, you can go out in it.
Q: IF I have a hospital or doctor’s appointment for an unrelated condition, can I go?
A: The answer to this depends on the situation. If you are meant to be self-isolating but you are due to have chemo and you have a fever, then you might not be able to have your treatment but you will probably need to be assessed anyway.
If you are self-isolating or feel unwell and cannot make a non-urgent appointment then stay at home.
But you should call and tell them, otherwise you may be marked down as a non-attendance.
Essentially you have wasted that appointment. If you are well and it is non-urgent, then why not go? There are no reasons for you not to attend.