Since late December, the news has been dominated by the emergence of coronavirus and the serious effects that it has had on the world at large. And now, as people have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease in as many as 80 countries, and the death toll continues to rise (this sits at around 3,000 at the time of writing), governments and other leading figures of authority have begun to step up their methods of controlling the spread of the disease.

At present, as coronavirus continues to move through Europe, those infected with the disease have been instructed to isolate themselves, schools have been closed and public gatherings called off. But, though this is something that is more widespread in places of heightened infection such as Italy and France, there’s always a chance that these preventative measures could be adopted throughout the UK.

And, whilst we’re not quite there yet, a rise in confirmed cases in the UK could mean that this happens sooner than we think. But should we be worried? Where does the truth lie when it comes to coronavirus, and how do we separate fact from fiction? This blog aims to help you stay safe and dispel some of the popular myths around the disease amidst this uncertain and confusing time.

What is coronavirus?

Originating in the Hubei province of China, coronavirus – or COVID-19 – is a respiratory disease which can, in severe cases, result in death. The predominant symptoms of coronavirus are a high temperature, dry cough and shortness of breath. As these symptoms are also associated with other, much more common diseases, such as colds and flu, it’s advised not to assume that you have coronavirus if you are displaying these symptoms.

In many cases, those diagnosed with coronavirus are able to manage this by isolating themselves in their homes, resting here for a two-week period and having limited contact with other people. More severe examples of this disease have led to death, normally after the development of pneumonia or organ failure. It is important to remember that those who are most susceptible to the more serious consequences of the disease are the elderly, those who are already immunocompromised and those with certain other existing health conditions.

How is coronavirus spread?

At present, there is no definite answer to this question. As similar viruses are contracted by inhaling, absorbing, or otherwise coming into contact with, the droplets from coughs or sneezes, it is advisable to cover your face when sneezing or coughing, use tissues and wash your hands on a regular basis. High standards of cleanliness appear to be the best mode of stopping the spread of, or contracting, this disease. Face masks, despite featuring prominently on the faces of those wishing to escape the disease, are widely acknowledged by medical authorities to be a much-less-effective way of protecting people from coronavirus.

There is no current specific treatment or vaccination for coronavirus and, in addition to medical intervention in the most extreme cases, recovery from the disease seems to work best when those infected isolate themselves and refrain from completing their normal routines – staying home from work, avoiding public transport and asking friends or relatives to go to the shops for them.

What do I do if I think I have coronavirus?

With cases of coronavirus currently on the rise, there is a broadly accepted method of how to go about getting tested for the disease. If you think you may have coronavirus, you should use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19. This service has been set up specifically as a way of reducing the spread of infection. Due to there being no definite understanding of how this disease is spread, you should not visit your local GP or medical facility in order to seek advice or diagnosis.

If you have recently been in contact with people who have had a positive diagnosis of the disease or have returned from a country or area with a high concentration of coronavirus cases, it is also vital that you use this service.

What other measures have been put in place?

The Department of Health and Social Care has put together a thorough plan of action (you can read this here. for how it aims to deal with coronavirus, with measures in place to attempt to contain the disease and work towards finding a way to eliminate it. Public Health England is also pursuing a policy of contract tracing, a process which involves talking to those who have tested positive for coronavirus and attempting to contact others who have recently been in close contact with this individual (this can be read about in more detail here.

Stay safe and exercise caution

As coronavirus continues to dominate the news and our lives, it’s important to take steps to stay safe and exercise caution. Make sure you adhere to strict hygiene practices (wash your hands on a regular basis and deal with coughing and sneezing in the appropriate manner) and contact NHS 111 directly if you suspect you have coronavirus.

Until otherwise advised, you should go about your routine as normal, remain vigilant and keep a close eye on the news for the latest developments on coronavirus.