Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease SARS-CoV-2.

This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

The most common symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

People can catch SARS-CoV-2 from others who have the virus. It can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person carrying the virus coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch the disease by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch

Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes SARS-CoV-2 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air. 

The risk of catching SARS-CoV-2 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However,  It is therefore possible to catch SARS-CoV-2 from someone who has very mild symptoms.  

If you live in a country or area where there has been no or very limited transmission, the European Centre for Disease and Control (ECDC) advice is that you should be tested if you have:

  1. Acute respiratory tract infection (sudden onset of at least one of the following: cough, fever, shortness of breath) AND with no other no other cause that fully explains your illness AND with a history of travel or residence in a country/area reporting local or community transmission during the 14 days prior to symptom onset;  OR 
  2. Any acute respiratory illness AND having been in close contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case in the last 14 days prior to onset of symptoms;  OR
  3. Severe acute respiratory infection (fever and at least one sign/symptom of respiratory disease (e.g., cough, fever, shortness breath)) AND requiring hospitalisation AND doctors can find no other cause that fully explains your illness. 

Stay up-to-date with the latest guidelines of your local or national health authorities. Guidance may change as more information is known about SARA-CoV-2.

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading by taking some simple precautions:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
  • Keep up to date on the latest SARS-CoV-2 hotspots (cities or local areas where the disease is spreading widely). If possible, avoid travelling to places  – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.

No. There is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes SARS-CoV-2.

It is not certain how long the virus survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

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