Coronavirus symptoms UK: NHS guidance on what to do if you're showing signs of the virus

Tim Baker, Ellena Cruse, Bronwen Weatherby, Kit Heren
Workers in protective suits conduct RNA tests on specimens inside a laboratory: REUTERS

Coronavirus has hit the UK with the Department of Health confirming that thousands of people have been infected.

Public Health England said anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should self-isolate for seven days. If someone in a household develops symptoms, the rest of the inhabitants need to self-isolate for 14 days.

The first British person to die of Covid-19 was confirmed to be on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan on February 29.

Here's everything you need to know about the virus - including symptoms and NHS guidance.

Sneezes should be caught in a tissue (PA)

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars).

The strain that has recently emerged is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The respiratory disease has been named Covid-19 by WHO.

It is thought to be transmitted in droplets from coughs and sneezes and can survive for a limited time on surfaces.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

According to the NHS, the main symptoms of coronavirus are having a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath.

New research suggests loss of smell and taste may also be symptoms of the disease.

People with the virus will typically show flu-like symptoms, including a fever and a cough, that can progress to severe pneumonia. This can then cause breathing difficulties.

The World Health Organisation has also stated that some patients may also experience aches and pains, as well as nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.

Who is most at risk?

Those with weakened immune systems, the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease are more at risk.

What measures should you take to protect yourself?

Simple steps go a long way to helping people avoid catching and spreading germs, such as coronavirus.

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Comply with lockdown rules of staying at home and only leaving the house for infrequent shopping trips and for exercise
  • Catch sneezes and coughs with a tissue, then bin it immediately, making sure you wash your hands afterwards or use antibacterial gel
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid those who are unwell

Hand washing advice:

Public Health England launched an advertising campaign to encourage Brits to wash their hands more effectively.

The Government said this will help slow the spread of the virus.

The nation should wash their hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing and before eating or touching food.

You should wash your hands for 20 seconds each time, using soap and water or hand sanitiser.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: "Washing hands regularly is the single most important thing that an individual can do."

Is there treatment available?

As the infection is relatively new, there is no specific treatment for coronavirus at this time. Medics try to relieve symptoms and keep the infected alive.

The UK has become the largest contributor in the international effort to find a coronavirus vaccine and Boris Johnson announced a £210 million donation during a virtual summit with G20 leaders at the end of March.

The Prime Minister said the money will help the whole word fight the Covid-19 strain and urged other countries to “step up” and help “defeat the virus”.

During a daily press briefing, Cabinet member Michael Gove said thousands of ventilators will be distributed to hospitals across the nation.

How to self-isolate and NHS guidance on calling 111

The latest NHS guidelines state that you should not go to your local GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital if you are displaying signs of coronavirus.

If you have symptoms like a fever or a continuous cough, you are advised to stay at home for 7 days.

You should only call 111 if you feel you cannot cope with the symptoms, you do not get better after 7 days, or your symptoms worse.

If you are staying at home you are advised to do the following:

  • Try to keep at least 2 metres from other people, particularly older people or those with long-term health conditions
  • Ask friends and family and delivery services to deliver things like food shopping and medicines – but avoid contact with them
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Try to sleep alone if possible
  • Stay away from older people and those with long-term health conditions
  • Drink plenty of water and take painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, to help with your symptom

More information from the NHS on the coronavirus can be found HERE

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