Coronavirus (COVID-19) - what is it and where to go for information26 March 2020
Anyone who has been trying to follow the latest updates on COVID-19 will know the situation is changing rapidly.
Updated information can be found on the following websites:
- gov.uk and NHS (England)
- NIdirect.gov.uk (Northern Ireland)
- Wales NHS
- NHS Inform (Scotland)
- Latest advice for children and parents from The Scottish Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology Network (SPARN).
Read our latest coronavirus and arthritis frequently asked questions.
Whether you’re self-isolating at home, supporting loved ones or caring for those in the community, we’ll continue to stand by, support and speak up for people living with arthritis.
We're here to help
We're here for you at any time. Call our free Helpline on 0800 5200 520, or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Mon-Fri 9am – 6pm), chat to our Virtual Assistant or connect with others on our online community.
On this page, you'll find:
- What is coronavirus and what are the symptoms?
- How can I protect myself from coronavirus?
- Shielding advice for 'high risk' groups
- Stay at home and social distancing advice for everyone
- Support for you
- Rheumatology patients and COVID-19 - learn more about the risk levels
- COVID-19 advice for people taking steroids
What is coronavirus and what are the symptoms?
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 is new, there is a lot we don’t yet know about the virus, such as how it is 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.
- fever/high temperature
- cough, which may cause shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Most cases of coronavirus in the UK have been mild, meaning the symptoms were similar to that of the common cold.
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.
Shielding advice for high risk groups
Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.
We strongly recommend you follow this guidance if you are in one of the high-risk groups.
There are some clinical conditions that put people at an even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:
- People who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication.
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
- People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment.
- People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets).
- People with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis).
If you are in this category, the NHS will contact you directly with advice on the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe.
‘At risk’ groups
The below are the groups currently deemed more ‘at risk’ and therefore should take extra care:
- aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
- under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
- those who are pregnant.
Stay at home and social distancing advice for everyone not in the high-risk groups
From 23 March, the government announced three new measures:
- Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
- Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
- Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public
Read our advice and tips to help you whilst you're staying at home here.
We’re working for you
We’re working with the NHS, health professional organisations and charities to ensure that we are updating information on our website daily to ensure you have the most up to date and relevant information available.
You’re not alone
We’re maintaining our social and online platforms to push back against isolation, maintaining a strong community of people with arthritis listening and learning from everyone’s experience as well as providing support.
Where can I go for more information?
- NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do. This is available in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Although the NHS 111 service is very busy. For the moment, the NHS is asking that you only use it if you are struggling to manage the symptoms at home, following the latest advice.
For more information for where you live, check out the following resources.
- England: Public Health England is updating their coronavirus blog daily with the latest advice and information.
- Northern Ireland: Public Health Agency are updating their website with the latest news daily.
- Scotland: NHS Inform
- Wales: Public Health Wales are updating their website with the latest news daily. Read the coronavirus easy guides from Public Health Wales:
Remember, we're here to help
If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.