Coronavirus symptoms: What are they and how do I protect myself?

By BBC On Tue, 24 Mar, 2020 10:49 | 2 mins read

Coronavirus cases have surged to over 382,000 globally with 16,568 people succumbing to the disease.

Over 100,000 who have contracted the virus have recovered with 119,073 cases closed.

So, what is the disease, how does it spread and when are people most infectious?

How do I protect myself?

The best thing is regular and thorough hand washing, preferably with soap and water.

Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air. These can be breathed in, or cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, then your eyes, nose or mouth.

So, coughing and sneezing into tissues, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with infected people are important for limiting the spread.

Face masks do not provide effective protection, according to medical experts.

What should I do to prevent catching and spreading the virus?

  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use sanitiser gel
  2. Catch coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues
  3. Throw away used tissues then wash hands
  4. If you don’t have a tissue use your sleeve
  5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  6. Avoid close contact with people who are unwell

What are the coronavirus symptoms?

Coronavirus infects the lungs. The symptoms start with a fever followed by a dry cough, which can lead to breathing problems.

This is a new, continuous cough and means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or having three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).

It takes five days on average to start showing the symptoms, scientists have said, but some people will get symptoms much later than this.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the incubation period lasts up to 14 days.

The key symptoms for coronavirus include high temperature, cough and breathing difficulties.

People will be most infectious when they have symptoms, but there have been suggestions some can spread the virus even before they are sick.

The early symptoms can easily be confused with other winter bugs including colds and flu.

The proportion dying from the disease appears low (between 1% and 2%) – but the figures are unreliable.

Thousands are being treated but may go on to die – so the death rate could be higher. But it may also be lower if lots of mild cases are unreported.

A World Health Organization examination of data from 56,000 patients suggests:

  • 6% become critically ill – lung failure, septic shock, organ failure and risk of death
  • 14% develop severe symptoms – difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
  • 80% develop mild symptoms – fever and cough and some may have pneumonia

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