There has been a mixture of panic and nonchalance about the emergence of the Coronavirus Covid19 and it’s spread from China to Europe and Ireland. Some people dismiss the virus as no more dangerous than the common flu, while others are preparing for the worst and the possible quarantine scenarios that we have had reports of in places like Wuhan in China.
The chance of mass quarantine and isolation in Ireland are very low. But there are so many conflicting sources of information going around that we thought we’d make it a little easier for you.
Is Coronavirus just the same as getting the flu?
No, the coronavirus is more serious than getting winter flu. The World Health Organisation estimates the mortality rate (the percentage of infected people who die as a result of infection) at around 1%. The winter influenza infections we see worldwide every year, kill between 260000-600000 people, but the coronavirus has a mortality rate of about 10 times greater than flu.
What are the actual symptoms of Coronavirus?
The main symptoms are a fever (high temperature) and a dry cough. You won’t get a runny nose or sneeze lots like you would with winter flu. You may also get a shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms to develop and during that time it is understood the virus can be passed on to other people.
Is Coronavirus only a problem for only older people or people already sick?
The people at the highest risk are those aged over 60 years of age and those with other underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer or respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD.
The highest mortality rate is in those patients older than 80 years old (21.9%). It’s really important to stop the spread to prevent the most vulnerable patients in our communities being affected. While young people are less likely to get serious complications as a result of coronavirus infection, the actions of everybody will be very important in limiting the spread and containment of the outbreak. this includes reporting of symptoms and steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
The findings from the WHO-China Joint Mission (published Feb 28th) also show that men have almost twice as high a risk of death than women.
Are facemarks useless in stopping the spread of coronavirus?
Facemasks have been in huge demand worldwide since January as reports of coronavirus Covid-19 spread. The masks help prevent the spread of virus particles in droplets, which is the main transmission source of the virus. Some tiny virus aerosols can still penetrate the masks but it’s estimated that facemasks offer about five times more protection than wearing no mask at all when in contact with an infected person. If you are in public and not in close contact with other people, the masks won’t offer much additional protection.
Facemasks offer about five times more protection than wearing no mask at all when in contact with an infected person
The virus can also spread via the eyes, which a mask won’t protect. There are other steps you can take though to help protect yourself and help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
(picture from The Guardian)
If you can’t get a facemask, what else can you do to protect yourself?
Washing your hands often and effectively is the best habit to get into, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and other infections. In addition, not touching your eyes or face with your hands and fingers can help.
When coughing, be sure to sneeze into a tissue then bin the tissue immediately and then wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue, cough into the corner of your elbow. This can help stop the virus being spread widely with coughing or from spreading it via your hands if you cover your mouth with your hands when coughing.
(picture from The Guardian)
How to wash your hands effectively with soap or alcohol hand gel.
- Wet your hands with warm water and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather.
- Rub the top of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Do this for about 15 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel.
The HSE has provided a handy video showing this technique in detail.
How close do I need to need to be to an infected person to catch the virus?
You can catch the virus if you are in close contact (within 6 feet) with an infected person. This does not need to be a prolonged period of time, but can happen within a few minutes interaction.
You can also catch the virus from surfaces if someone has for example coughed close by or touched a hard surface with their hands after coughing. This is a less prevalent route of transmission but you can help minimise the spread by keeping surfaces regularly cleaned using quality disinfectant products. If you share a workspace with other staff members or with the public, this can be a good routine to get into.
Who needs to go into self isolation or be tested for Coronavirus?
In Ireland, the current advice form the HSE is that you only need to be tested for Coronavirus if you have symptoms and have in the last 14 days been:
- in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus
- to a country or region with a spread of coronavirus
- in a healthcare centre or hospital where patients with coronavirus were being treated
Anyone who knows they have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days and has symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever) should:
- Isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room, with a phone
- Phone their GP, or emergency department – if this is not possible, phone 112, or 999
- In a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999
Can I be infected when opening packages that I have bought from China or other affected countries?
No, this is not possible. You can’t get coronavirus from packages or food that has come from China or elsewhere. That’s a relief to those of us that buys lots of products online and also those people who rely on imports from China for business.
Also, the HSE tells us that “there is no evidence that animals or animal products legally imported into the EU are a health risk due to coronavirus.”
Will there be a vaccine for Coronavirus Covid-19 soon?
While there is intense research being carried out worldwide, it is not expected a vaccine would be widely available for at least a year.