Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ’s answered

A red sign which states "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak"
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What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses which circulate and cause disease in animals. Some of these coronaviruses can transmit between animals and humans. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory infections which range from mild illness, such as the common cold, to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The new discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.


What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the most recent discovery of coronavirus. The COVID-19 outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include the following:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Tiredness/lethargy
  • Shortness of breath (in more severe cases)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have also noted that some patients may have “aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea”. Some patients may also experience a loss of taste and smell. These symptoms tend to appear two to 14 days after exposure and can range from mild to severe. WHO add that most people (80%) recover from COVID-19 without requiring special treatment. It is important to note that some patients may not experience any symptoms at all.


How does Coronavirus spread?

According to research, COVID-19 usually spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person. These respiratory droplets are produced when a person coughs or sneezes. Respiratory droplets can land in the eyes, nose, or mouth of people within 3 feet of an infected person.

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these respiratory droplets also land on surfaces and objects. It is also possible to catch COVID-19 by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after coming in contact with an infected surface or object.

There is ongoing research looking into the way in which COVID-19 can spread, and the WHO are regularly updating their findings.


Who is most at risk of COVID-19?

Whilst people of all ages can be infected with coronavirus, there are certain groups of people at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with the disease. NHS England has identified an increased risk from coronavirus for the following groups:

  • People who are 70 or older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with pre-existing health conditions such as:
    • Lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis
    • Heart disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Liver disease
    • Conditions affecting the brain and nerves, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS)
    • Diabetes
    • Problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed
    • A weak immune system as a result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
    • Being overweight (having a BMI of 40 or above)


What is the recovery time?

The length of time it takes to recover from COVID-19 varies and depends on the severity of symptoms. The WHO analysis of Chinese data suggests that recovery time for those with mild symptoms, such as a cough or fever, is approximately two weeks.

Patients who experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, and require specialist treatment, can take up to 3 to 6 weeks to recover.

WHO estimates 1 in 20 people will require intensive care treatment, which could result in sedation or the use of a ventilator to support breathing. Depending on the length of stay in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the level of critical care required, the recover time can take several months.


How to stop the spread of COVID-19

The risk of infection can be reduced by complying with the following protection measures:

  • Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds – making sure to wash your hands as soon as you return home.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when sneezing with your bent elbow or a tissue – making sure to discard this tissue immediately after use.
  • Maintaining at least 1 metre distance between yourself and people around you when in public.
  • Follow Government advice on social distancing – only leaving the house for limited purposes such as shopping for basic necessities, exercising once a day, a medical need or travelling for work (only where you cannot work from home).
  • Self-isolating for 7 days if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above.
  • Self-isolating for 14 days if someone you live with experiences any of the symptoms mentioned above.

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.