People are rationally concerned about coronavirus, which has taken the lives of 2800 worldwide and spread across the globe from China to Europe, the Middle East, and America, with over 80,000 people infected.
Coronavirus has, in the last few days, arrived in the UK, and has now spread to Derbyshire.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is actually a group of related illnesses which includes the common cold, influenza, SARS, and MERS, but this specific variant, Covid-19, is a new strain which has not previously been identified in humans. This variant causes similar illness in humans but can also attack the respiratory system.
It is a zoonotic disease, which means that it was transferred to humans from animals. Transmission is now primarily between humans but how it is transmitted has not yet been identified, due to its newness. Work is ongoing to determine how it is transferred from person to person and how to stop it.
Coronavirus has not yet been classified as a pandemic (a worldwide outbreak of a serious new illness) and is currently classed as an epidemic. It reaches pandemic when there are a very high number of deaths, and the spread is completely out of control.
Am I at risk?
At present the people most at risk are those who have travelled to other countries. China, Iran and Northern Italy are the most in the news with new cases and death tolls.
The Home Office has advised against travel to these countries.
It has spread to the following countries:
- Hong Kong
- North Macedonia
- Sri Lanka
- The Republic of Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
Common signs of infection include: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death. Obviously these are also signs of less serious illnesses, making knowing that a person is infected more difficult. Currently those who are suspected of having the illness are tested at a hospital, in isolation.
The illness can take up to 2 weeks for symptoms to appear, which means that people who have just returned from abroad not showing any symptoms does not mean that they are not infected. This is where the biggest risk lies – lack of containment. People think they are fine and carry on with their normal lives, all the while infecting others.
Most infections are mild, and most people will recover. Although yesterday it was discovered that about 14% of those who recover later test positive again. It is not yet known whether those who have recovered can still infect others after recovery.
Covid-19 is slightly more communicable than flu. A person with Covid-19 will infect 2-3 people. For comparison, people with flu infect 2 people and people with measles infect 8. This snowballs because each person they infect also infects 2-3 others. So 1 person infects 3 who infect 9 more who infect 27 who infect 81 who infect 243 etc.
Where is it in Derbyshire?
- Buxton Medical Practice is closed due to a confirmed case of coronavirus
- Burbage Primary School has been closed due to a parent with coronavirus (the location of infection is said to be Tenerife)
What about Belper schools?
The only school which we are aware of having definite links to a country which has been affected by coronavirus is Belper School. If we gain more information on other schools, we will update you.
Nailed contacted Belper School on Tuesday 25th February to request information on where people had been in Northern Italy, and how many, what prevention measures were being taken, and why there was no advice on the website. Headmaster Mr. Goforth responded but did not answer any of these questions and stated that there was a low risk.
On 26th February we were informed that staff were briefed, that day, on standard advice for coronavirus.
On 27th February a letter was sent to parents and posted on the school website. This letter states that 3 teachers were in Northern Italy, and that they are self isolating. We cannot, at this time, confirm the risk factor of the area because the location has not been disclosed.
What should we do?
Not a lot is known about how to stop it spreading at the moment. For example, nobody knows how long the virus remains active outside the body, say on surfaces. The virus itself is unlikely to kill most people, and most cases will be mild. Authorities are focusing on containing the illness by asking people to isolate themselves (stay in their homes) if there is any possibility of infection (mostly travel).
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include: regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Self Isolation: stay in your home – this extends to everyone who lives in the house of the person who is a potential risk (as they have been exposed to that person), order food to be delivered (Morrisons offers delivery) and left outside one’s house, speak with NHS 111 and your own doctor.
Masks: The NHS has advised those with facial hair, including stubble, to remove it entirely, because masks to prevent airborne spread of the disease do not work with facial hair. They prevent a seal from forming and allow “dirty air” to be breathed in.
Although it spread to humans from animals, it has not been passed on to any pets, and the advice on this is a definitive “No.” You can’t give it to your cat/dog.
If concerned one might be infected, first call 111 for NHS advice.
There is no vaccine, although work on developing one is underway. There is no specific antiviral medication for Covid-19. Those infected will be treated for symptoms.
It can take weeks for the spread of an infection to become apparent in an area. Hot spots were already risk areas before they were officially named as such.
81% of cases experience it as mild to moderate. 14% of cases become severe, with pneumonia and breathing difficulties, and 5% of cases become critical, with respiratory failure, septic shock and multiple organ failure, 2% die.
The important thing is to stop the spread, which means that people who are not showing symptoms but have travelled back to the UK from places with identified cases need to self isolate.
This is not for their own health but to stop it spreading. If it spreads, 2% of people infected die, and 1 person can cause many deaths.
Self isolation is a duty, not an option. There is some objection and resistance to self isolation, but it must happen. Defying the advice to self isolate is to knowingly put others at risk. You probably won’t die from coronavirus, and you’ll only infect 3 people, but that snowballs up from 1 person to thousands in weeks and some of them will die – someone’s child’s friend’s mother who is immuno-compromised most likely will die because Joe Bloggs refused to stop going to work after coming back from a ski trip. Those at highest risk from coronavirus are the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions which affect the immune and respiratory systems.