What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

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What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a group of viruses that are known to affect your lungs and airways (respiratory system).

The coronavirus currently dominating the media is a new strain – known as COVID-19.

As it’s new, there’s a lot we don’t yet know about the virus, such as how it’s passed on.

Based on other respiratory infections, we think it's passed on through:

  • coughs and sneezes
  • using contaminated items, such as sharing drinking glasses.

Most viruses cannot survive for long outside of a body, so it's unlikely you'll catch it from handling letters or parcels coming from outside the UK.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • fever/high temperature
  • cough, which may cause shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
  • Anosmia (a lose of smell or taste)

If you (or anyone in your household) experience any of these symptoms you should self-isolate.

Most cases of coronavirus in the UK have been mild, meaning the symptoms are similar to that of the common cold.

In severe cases, it may cause pneumonia and kidney failure.

These symptoms are also common in many viral conditions, including the common cold and flu. Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have coronavirus.

How can I protect myself from coronavirus?

The World Health Organization advises a few basic measures for protecting against COVID-19. These include:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often and for at least 20 seconds – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands aren't clean.

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