A serious outbreak of the coronavirus around the world has prompted health alerts in the UK and the rest of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it “a public health emergency of international concern” and the Government has allocated £40 million to address the implications of the outbreak in the UK.
As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. This particular strain of the coronavirus (2019-nCov or Covid19) was first identified in Wuhan City, China.
The WHO has produced a short, four-minute video providing some general information about the development and spread of the virus, its symptoms, and measures to reduce the spread, which can be found at: https://openwho.org/courses/introduction-to-ncov.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Coronavirus in People?
At the moment, symptoms of coronavirus in people are similar to the symptoms of regular flu and include fever and a cough or difficulty breathing. The current evidence is that most cases are mild and that the usual winter flu remains more of a threat than coronavirus.
In some cases, the coronavirus may progress to pneumonia causing shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties.
Coronavirus may cause more severe symptoms in older people or those with underlying medical conditions such as weakened immune systems, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
In serious cases, infection can cause severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Evidence so far indicates that those who have died appear to have had pre-existing health conditions.
What are the Health Recommendations for Coronaviruses?
Current medical advice to prevent the spread of infection from coronaviruses includes:
- regular handwashing
- avoiding close contact with people who are ill with coughs and sneezes
- covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
- avoiding touching the mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
What Should I Do if I Develop Flu-like Symptoms?
If you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath, and have recently returned from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau, or have had contact with someone who has, do not go into work, do not go to your doctors’ surgery and do not leave your home. Call NHS 111 immediately.
Is There a Vaccine for Coronavirus?
No. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against the specific strain in question (2019-nCoV) at the time of writing, and the WHO is supporting their efforts.
Is it Safe to Receive a Letter or Package from China?
Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From previous analysis, health experts know that coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.
How to Keep Safe While Travelling
- Ensure the organisation has proportionate and robust policies, procedures and controls in place and that you know what they are. Request further information or training if you are at all unsure.
- Consider whether the travel is absolutely necessary: can you achieve the same result with video-conferencing? It is important that the “fly/no fly” decision is based on best available guidance such as government travel recommendations via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice website. The entry for China is available here.
- If travel is absolutely necessary, make sure you are involved in assessing the risks and deciding how these are to be controlled.
- Make sure the organisation always knows where you are and where you are going next. Some travel management systems provide tracking and alert functions, and there are also live location tracking products using GPS in either equipment or smartphone apps.
- Ensure there are clear procedures in place in case you are involved in an incident or emergency situation. Travel assistance schemes provided by business insurers or commercial organisations such as International SOS can be useful.
Resources on the coronavirus can be found at the following websites.