The background: Coronaviruses, so-called because of the spikes on their surface, were first identified in the 1960s. They are common across the world, and cause symptoms similar to flu. This new strain, novel coronavirus, was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and was notified to the World Health Organisation on 31 December. On 11 February 2020, WHO named the disease caused by novel coronavirus as COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease). In practice, both 'coronavirus' and 'COVID-19' are used to refer to both the virus and the disease it causes.
Novel coronavirus is spread by droplets in the air from an infected person sneezing or coughing, and from surfaces such as handrails and door handles. It is spreading rapidly because it is a new strain and no one has acquired immunity to it. At present there is no vaccine and the latest information is that it could be a year before a reliable vaccine becomes widely available.
As with ordinary (seasonal) flu, a person can be exposed to the virus but not become ill, or if they do become ill the illness may be mild, moderate or severe. As with seasonable flu a severe case can potentially cause death, primarily for people who are elderly, have a weakened immune system, or have certain pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and chronic lung disease. Symptoms of COVID-19 generally start with a fever, followed by a dry cough and about a week later, shortness of breath then breathing difficulties.Amongst the many official webpages I have looked at, my favourite is Myth busters from the World Health Organisation. This includes the myths that eating garlic can prevent infection with the new coronavirus (no evidence so far) and that putting on sesame oil can block the virus from entering the body (no). See link below.Official publications (UK)All official publications will be regularly updated, and the Gov.uk collections are, I presume, likely to be extended. So check the links below regularly.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Latest information and advice. Department for Health & Social Care and Public Health England; updated daily at 2pm. Covers number of cases; risk level; returning travellers; information about the virus; summary of action taken by the government; diagnosis and analysis; further information.
- COVID-19: Guidance for non-clinical settings. Gov.uk collection. With links a number of other publications: Guidance for employers and businesses; Guidance for social or community care and residential settings; Guidance for educational settings; Guidance for staff in the transport sector; Decontamination in non-healthcare settings.
- COVID-19: Guidance for health professionals. Gov.uk collection, with (not surprisingly) a large number of links, including Background information; Infection prevention and control; Guidance for primary care; Guidance to assist professionals in advising the general public; Guidance for healthcare providers who have staff with relevant, travel, healthcare or household contact history; Guidance for first responders.
- Travel advice: Coronavirus (COVID-19). Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Guidance for British people travelling and living overseas.
- Coronavirus (COVID 19): Immigration guidance. Home Office and UK Visas & Immigration. Currently covers Chinese nationals in the UK; non-Chinese, non-EEA nationals in the UK normally resident in China; information for Chinese or third country nationals in China; British nationals in China who need to apply for a passport; and licensed tier 2, tier 4 or tier 5 sponsors with absences due to coronavirus. Includes telephone and email details for the coronavirus immigration helpline.
- National Health Service coronavirus information and advice. Covers overview; advice for travellers; common questions. Includes an online advice questionnaire at https://111.nhs.uk/Question/Navigation
- Coronavirus (COVID-10). NHS Inform (Scotland).
- Public Health Wales statement on novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Updated daily at 3pm.
- COVID-19 (coronavirus). Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland).
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. Covers: protect yourself; your questions answered; travel advice; situation reports; media resources; technical guidance; global research.
- Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
- Myth busters.