What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a virus that can affect mammals and birds. In human beings, Coronavirus can cause respiratory tract infections. In some cases, the symptoms are mild and the person might only feel a normal seasonal cold. But in some cases, the symptoms can be severe and can be fatal.
Coronavirus can cause respiratory tract infections in birds, but in other animals, especially mammals like pigs and cows, it can also cause diarrhoea. Currently, there is no medicine or vaccination to treat humans from being infected by Coronavirus.
We’ve collated lots of useful information to help you understand what Coronavirus is and how you can do your bit to keep safe. Some things we’ll cover are:
• How Can People Get Infected?
• Who is Classified as Vulnerable and High Risk?
• Signs and Symptoms
• Precautions and Treatment
• How to Boost Immunity
• How to Protect Your Home
• Things to Keep On You
• What To Do If You Have Symptoms
• How To Seek Medical Help
• What Is Social Distancing?
• Welfare for the Community
• Safeguarding and Support
• Coronavirus Myths VS Reality/Facts
COVID-19 is an airborne virus from the family of coronaviruses like SARS and MERS. It is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, the tiny droplets from their mouth might land on to another person and will get into their body if the hand touches their hand, eyes or nose or directly in case of close contact.
It is novel as there are no previous cases of this virus before 2019 when it first started spreading in Wuhan, China.
The virus has been classed as a Pandemic since more than 203 countries and territories in the world have been affected by it so far. This virus causes severe respiratory tract infection and can be transmitted from person to person. It is believed that almost 80% of the people affected by the virus might not carry any visible symptoms. It is important to keep a social distance with everyone to minimise the risk of being infected.
This virus is believed to be less deadly than SARS and MERS, although it is more easily transmitted than the other two. 1 in 5 people infected by the novel coronavirus, may need hospital care, although the symptoms might be mild for young and healthy people and children. As there are no previous cases however, it is difficult to say how it will affect each case. Therefore, the risk of being infected is for everyone.
How Can People Get Infected?
Close human to human contact is the primary source of transmitting the virus. This can be through common day to day activities such as a handshake, touching handrails, opening doors, coughing, sneezing, keyboards, telephone and even at the gym.
Imagine you are sitting on a train and the person (who is a carrier) next to you sneezes not covering their mouth and nose. They could spread respiratory droplets containing the virus, which could land on you and cause transmission of the virus.
Another common transmission method could be you meet a friend/ colleague who has contracted the virus and before shaking your hand, they unintentionally wipe their mouth or nose. You shake their hand and before washing/ sanitising your hands you wipe your nose or mouth giving the virus on your hand an entry point into your body.
There are many ways in which you can get infected but your hands and face being the common entry points.
Who is Classified as Vulnerable and High Risk?
People with a weak immune system and underlying health conditions are more vulnerable and likely to be subjected to the virus. Other categories of vulnerable and high-risk persons are; pregnant, elderly (70 or older) or have a condition that can get worse if infected by Coronavirus.
Some of the conditions that can increase the risk of being infected are; lung diseases, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, bronchitis, Parkinson’s or MS. People who have HIV, AIDS or have undergone or currently undergoing chemotherapy, have any cancer treatment, had a stroke in the past or an organ transplant are also classified as high risk with weaker immune systems.
Signs and Symptoms
At this point, there is no medical evidence to suggest how different groups will react to the virus. 80% of those infected with the virus will show moderate to no signs or symptoms. This could range from no change in the person’s lifestyle to the person feeling as if they have a regular cold. The other 20% will require to be hospitalised for some form of treatment ranging from observation to life-saving treatment in an intensive care unit.
The common signs and symptoms of the virus include:
• A high temperature (100.4F or 38C or higher)
• A new, continuous dry cough (means coughing a lot for an hour or so, or 3 or more coughing fits during 24 hours)
• Aches and pains
• Fatigue and tiredness
• Shortness of breath/ difficulty breathing
• Organ failure; kidneys and lungs
Signs and symptoms vary from person to person depending on how strong their immunity system is, but the most common and definite symptoms are continuous cough and fever.
Precautions and Treatment
Currently, there is no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. However, you can take some precautions to reduce the risk of being infected. There are some guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation and NHS following which we can save ourselves and our loved ones from this pandemic. These are simple things which everyone can do:
• Stay aware and well informed of the information sources from local and national health services regarding the outbreak and how to protect yourself and those you live with.
• Regularly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) or if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• When you develop signs of having Coronavirus stay and home and do not leave home.
• Avoid all public places.
• You can only leave home when absolutely necessary, such as buying groceries or picking up medication.
• If you do go out, maintain a distance of 2 metres from anyone around you.
• If you have symptoms yourself, self-isolate for 7 days at home. If anyone you live with has symptoms self-isolate for 14 days.
• Work from home and only go to work when absolutely unavoidable.
• Cover your mouth with a tissue, or if you do not have a tissue at hand cover with your sleeve while coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes and nose without washing hands as you might transmit the virus from your hands to your body via eyes, mouth or nose.
• Dispose of the used tissue immediately.
• If you develop any symptoms do not go out at all and do not visit the GP or the pharmacy.
• Call local health services and they will guide you for the next steps. They have the latest information so they will help you to the right medical facility.
• Avoid public transport and public places such as restaurants and pubs etc.
• Although the virus is spreading rapidly and the situation changes every day, but it is a good idea to keep yourself up to date with the COVID-19 hotspots and avoid those areas.
• Do not travel outside the town or country.
• Do not share everyday use items such as a water bottle, spoons, keyboard or mouse etc with anyone.
• If you have any underlying health issues such as diabetes, heart or lung disease take extra precaution and avoid all public contact, as those persons are at a higher risk.
• Wearing a face mask is a good idea for people with respiratory issues. Gloves are helpful for people dealing with other people directly such as at shops or chemists etc.
• Change your clothes immediately after coming home and take a shower.
• Take shoes off outside the home if possible, if not take them off at the door, do not walk in the house with your shoes.
• If possible, wash your clothes straight away after coming home. If this is not feasible, it is also believed that the virus in clothes can be killed by hanging them outside for a few hours.
How to Boost Immunity
Apart from these guidelines, there are some other measures that you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting ill. One of the things you can do is to build up your immunity. This can be done by eating a healthy diet and those things that will help develop your immune system and make it stronger. The virus attacks those with a weaker immune system more.
Our body runs on the fuel we put in it, so if we put in good quality fuel, it will give our body more energy and it will perform well against the attack of all kinds of foreign threats such as viruses, bacteria or any kind of illnesses. Our body cells, tissues, organs and blood fight against the harmful pathogens to protect us from catching those and getting unwell.
If we feed good fuel to our body, the cells, organs, tissues and blood work well together to become stronger and limit the damage of foreign threats to our body. There are so many things we can easily do at our homes to boost our immunity system.
Eating a Healthy Diet: Plant-based food such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, herbs and spices are good for boosting up your immune system. Many plant-based foods have antibacterial and antiviral properties that help our body to fight off the pathogens when they attack our body. Spices such as cloves, oregano, thyme, cinnamon and cumin contain antiviral and antibacterial properties and boost up the immune system.
Nutrients: Our body also needs good nutrients to do its job properly. Zinc, folate, iron, selenium, copper and vitamins of all kinds such as A, C, E, B6 and B12 are the ones we get from our diet and are very important in building up your immune system. Vitamin C is an important vitamin but our body does not produce the vitamin on its own so, therefore it’s important to eat food that provides vitamin C.
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit and tangerine have an abundance of Vitamin C. Kiwis and red pepper are also a great source of vitamin C.
Protein: a healthy amount of protein intake also helps in building and maintaining immune cells. In a study conducted on mice, the group who ate a good amount of protein (18%) fought the virus quicker compared to the group who only ate 2% protein-based food. Some good sources of protein-rich foods are seafood, poultry and lean meat. However, if you observe a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can use other alternatives.
Advice for Smokers: Any time is a good time to quit smoking. However, it has become even more imperative as COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system and lungs. Smokers are at a greater risk of being infected as their lungs are not as healthy as a non-smoker.
The smoke from cigarettes releases chemicals like carbon monoxide, nicotine, nitrogen oxides and cadmium which reduces the efficiency of immune cells, making them weaker against the foreign attack.
Smoking increases the risk of lung infections such as pneumonia up to 5 times. Plus, quitting smoking will reduce the risk of other health issues such as a heart attack and stroke. Therefore, quitting smoking is a healthy way of reducing your risk of being infected by the Coronavirus.
Advice for People With Chronic Conditions: People who have a chronic condition of asthma, heart condition and diabetes are at a greater risk of catching viruses. These chronic conditions affect the immune system therefore, increase the vulnerability of the patient suffering from those conditions.
However, these illnesses can be managed with a good diet and some other tips. For example, a balanced diet with healthy nutrients and in proper proportions will keep diabetes under control. Checking blood sugar regularly and taking regular medication, eating meals with regular intervals etc.
Exercise: a regular exercise will also help you to keep yourself fit and active. A weak and lazy body is more likely to have a weaker immune system compared to an active body. You can look for exercising ideas on NHS Home on the official website. If you used to go to the gym regularly and can’t do it now due to social distancing, you can still do some sort of exercise from the comfort of your home.
If you have the privilege of having a garden, you can do some quick stretches or even run in your back garden in the fresh air. If not, you can do indoor exercise. You can even go out for a walk around the block or open spaces, whilst bearing in mind to keep a distance of at least 2 meters with others.
Keep a Routine: Keeping a healthy sleep and wake up cycle is also important for your immune system and to maintain good health. Even if you are out of work at the moment, going to bed at your routine time and waking up at your usual time will keep your body fit and active and will also help you keep a routine throughout the day. Eat at regular mealtimes and keep yourself busy with physical and mental activities.
Activate Your Brain: Keeping your mind busy at all waking hours also helps in keeping good health. In current circumstances when everything seems doom and gloom, being glued to the television or phone will only make one more depressed and stressed. Although, everyone is worried about themselves and their loved ones, keeping a track of the latest figures and stats will not help anyone in a real sense.
One thing we can do to help ourselves is to keep good mental health. Engage yourself in activities that make you feel relaxed and activate your brain cells too. Learning a new craft, cooking, reading or concentration building games like puzzles will help to keep the mind active and fresh
How to Protect Your Home
Keeping a clean house is always important but it is even more important now than ever. Coronavirus is an airborne virus that can be carried through different mediums such as shoes, clothes, hands or other things and surfaces into the house. It is very important to keep our house clean and germs free at all times. Some of the easy to do tips for a clean house are:
• Taking shoes off as soon as you enter the house.
• Clean the high traffic areas in your house with a good disinfectant with a mop every time someone comes in from outside.
• For carpets, hoover regularly.
• Clean the door handles with a good disinfectant with a wipe or clean cloth.
• If you have brought home any food or non-food items, wash them immediately if possible (such as fruits and vegetables) or if washing is not possible, clean them with a clean cloth (such as packaging on bread, eggs and other everyday use items).
• Wash hands immediately before touching anything else.
• Do not sit down and take a shower.
• Wipe off surfaces around the house with a clean cloth, put in a little amount of Dettol or any disinfectant on the cloth.
Things to Keep on You
You can keep some things on you at all times to keep yourself clean and hygienic and reduce the risk of catching yourself with Coronavirus. These can be:
• A hand sanitiser, it is believed that a hand sanitiser of 9% alcohol content is good to kill the virus on hands.
• Dettol or any other cleaning wipes that you can use to clean and wipe off the surfaces.
• Paracetamol or any pain relief medicine
• A water bottle to keep your throat from getting dry and keeping yourself well-hydrated.
• A pack of pocket tissues so that you can catch sneeze or cough.
• If you have any chronic condition, keep some supplies with you, for example, an inhaler or pump for asthma or diabetes medication.
What To Do If You Have Symptoms
• If you develop any symptoms of coronavirus you need to self-isolate yourself from everyone. This includes isolating members of the household too. If, however, they also develop some sort of symptoms, then you can isolate with them.
• However, you mustn’t go out and keep yourself away from other people so as not to spread the virus to anyone else.
• If you need groceries or any other necessities like medication, any member of family or friends can help you out by dropping the items to your doorstep. You can not meet them.
• If this is not possible, you can order home delivery from local superstores.
• Individuals who have symptoms themselves are required to self-isolate for 7 days. If a member of the household has symptoms then you are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
• You can stay in touch with friends and family on social media or on the telephone to keep in touch.
• If you feel better, you can still do some light exercise.
• If condition worsens, prepare a hospital bag with basic things in case you need to go to the hospital.
How to Seek Medical Help
If you develop symptoms of Coronavirus or need medical help for other reasons:
• Do not leave your house. Do not go to the health centres or your GP and do not visit the chemist.
• You can call 111 and they will guide you to the next steps and will send medical help when needed.
• For information and advice not related to Coronavirus, visit the NHS website or your local GP website.
• For emergencies, call 999.
What is Social Distancing?
As of now, practising social distancing is a must for everyone. This has been implemented in most of the countries undergoing the coronavirus outbreak. Social distancing means:
• Everyone must remain at home at all times and only leave home when unavoidable such as for buying basic groceries or medicine or going to work only when you can not work from home.
• Gym, educational institutions, restaurants, pubs, park and all public places and public events such as funfairs, wedding or funerals can not be held.
• When you do need to step outside, maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from others.
• No direct contact with anyone showing symptoms
• Avoid public transport as much as possible
• Gatherings with friends and family can also not be held during social distancing.
Unfortunately, social distancing is likely to be in place for many weeks. However, we must keep in mind that it is for the benefit of everyone including us and our loved ones. By following the guidelines provided by the health services we can keep ourselves and others save and not spread the virus in the community. This way we can save many precious lives and the health services too, their job is already overwhelming, the least we can do is to make it a little bit less stressful for them.
Welfare for the Community
There are several ways we can pay back to the community in these crucial and hard times.
• We can help the elderly and vulnerable by checking in on them to see if they are fine, buying them groceries and picking up their medicine from the chemist.
• If you know of someone self-isolating you can text or call them so that they don’t feel lonely. Or buy their basic stuff and leave on their doorstep.
• You can volunteer with the community response scheme
• You can also contact local charities. A lot of local charities are providing community response for those who do not have any support during this hard time, or even for advice and practical help.
• On local council websites in some boroughs, you can also find an up-to-date list of foodbank items for what is needed and collection points.
Safeguarding and Support
The local authorities and councils have set up a great networking safeguarding and support system to protect the community during social distancing. Due to the closure of schools and workplaces, there are a lot of people who might be suffering abuse of some sort at home.
Some might be struggling financially, such as those who are self-employed or on daily wages or who have lost their jobs due to the financial loss of the businesses. There are many ways you can help the community by helping the local authorities to make things easier for such families or individuals.
• If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, you can call local charities who are working for domestic abuse control such as the Dash Charity.
• For adults, children and vulnerable abuse and neglect at home, you can also reach your local council.
• For financial help and support, you can get in touch with referral agencies. Referrals can be obtained from social services, Citizens Advice Bureau, schools, GPs, housing associations or local charities.
• If you are feeling anxiety, stress or depression, you can have a look at the talking therapies on the NHS website.
• Parents should help children with their school learning packs to keep them up-to-date with the school work.
• Government has also announced funding of £10,000 for small businesses and of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses to help them with their financial hardship
• Self-employed people can apply for a taxable grant for 80% of trading profits, maximum of £2500 per month for up to 3 months.
• If you are worried about paying your bills and mortgage, you can take a look at the Money Advice Services website.
• Local authorities are also providing other financial support such as housing benefit or council tax.
• If you are struggling with energy bills, you can contact your energy supplier. All energy suppliers are working with the central government and they might be able to reduce your repayments on arrears or may assist with topping up a pay as you go meter. If you meet certain criteria, you may register for priority energy service which can be found at Ofgem website.
Coronavirus Myths VS Reality/Facts
Since the outbreak of the disease, many people and social media groups have posted several things regarding its spread, tests, treatment and cure. There are also a large number of conspiracy theories going around regarding the virus. Some of the interesting myths about the virus and whether or not they are true, are:
• It is a man-made virus, spread deliberately by people. False. There is no reason to believe that a virus of this sort is made purposely by men to kill other fellow humans. Viruses change overtime and the can cause an outbreak when a common virus in animals undergoes changes and passes on to humans.
• Buying or ordering a product coming from a COVID-19 infected region will transmit the virus. False. According to the World Health Organisation, international packages undergo several temperature changes and get from one place to another in many days. Therefore, any virus that might have been on a surface is unlikely to survive.
• A face mask will protect from COVID-19. False. A disposable face mask is unlikely to protect from being infected as the person wearing the mask may still inhale or take in viral droplets. Moreover, the person wearing the mask may still touch their face that has come into contact with a contaminated surface or infected person.
• Gargling with bleach, saltwater or using essential oils will reduce the risk. False. There is no evidence that these things will benefit or reduce the risk of being infected by Coronavirus. Some of these tips may even be dangerous and will cause more harm than good.
• Using hairdryer will kill the virus. False. Using a hairdryer will not kill Coronavirus. The only recommended method for killing the virus is frequently washing hands with soap and water.
• Thermal scanners can detect people with Coronavirus. False. Thermal scanners can only tell if people develop a high fever or a high rise in body temperature.
• Spraying alcohol or chlorine on clothes will kill the virus. False. Spraying alcohol or chlorine is only likely to harm eyes, mouth, body and clothes.
• Eating ginger and garlic will reduce the risk of Coronavirus. False. There is no evidence to suggest that eating these things will reduce the risk of Coronavirus.
Coronavirus or COVID-19 is a highly transmittable viral infection that can be caught by any healthy or weak person. The only things we can do to keep ourselves and others save is to keep ourselves and our house clean, eat a healthy diet, keep our mind and body fit, maintain social distancing, in case of symptoms isolate from others, seek medical help, protect the community and vulnerable and follow medical guidelines.
We are all in this together and together we can make it less stressful for everyone around us.