With the World Health Organization’s declaration on 31st January that the Coronavirus situation is a public health emergency of international concern, it's natural to be concerned about the spread of the virus.
The situation is changing daily and as an international healthcare provider, we need to keep a close eye on all developments as they evolve, sharing information, and offering advice and support where necessary.
We've created this page to share everything we know so far, and what it may mean for you.
What is the coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a type of virus that causes respiratory tract infections, such as colds and chest infections. Novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019.
The coronavirus usually causes mild symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The illness is called Covid-19. Rarely, it can cause breathing difficulties and death. The most severely affected people to date have been the elderly and those with long-term health conditions.
How did it start?
The story broke in late December 2019 when a novel illness originating in Wuhan, China was reported. The number of infected people quickly rose, with isolated cases appearing in several countries due to international travel.
The Chinese government acted swiftly by placing Wuhan and nearby cities under quarantine. Public health bodies around the world quickly put measures in place to help stop the virus from spreading further. Here in the UK, British Airways suspended all flights to China.
How far has it spread?
Since the outbreak in December, cases have escalated rapidly. As of 6th March, more than 100,000 cases have been confirmed globally, although the overwhelming majority (80,000+) were in China.
Cases have also been reported in 72 other countries, including countries on every continent.
How to prevent coronavirus from spreading
To prevent infection spreading, the WHO recommends:
- Regular hand washing
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, preferably with a disposable tissue
- Avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing
Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS are also providing advice related to travel and contact with those confirmed as having Covid-19 to reduce the risk of it spreading.
When should you seek advice?
If you have returned from aboard, take a look at the PHE guidance for returning travellers or follow the NHS 111 coronavirus service's interactive flow-chart. These sites can help you to work out whether you need to contact NHS 111, self-isolate, or watch for symptoms but carry on as normal.
How is it being treated?
Work is underway to make an effective vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection, but it will be some time before it is available. There are no specific treatments currently: the main focus is relieving the symptoms. The main hope of controlling the situation is the rapid identification of cases and the prevention of onward transmission through patient isolation.
Here in the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all travel to Hubei Province and all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China. You can also follow the Foreign and Commonwealth website for regular updates and travel guidance.
Information accurate as of 06 March 2020 12:00 GMT