COVID 19 is rapidly spreading across the world and the number of infected countries continues to rise. There is a lot to still learn about the coronavirus; the basic symptoms are known and The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently states that the incubation period is up to 14 days but could be longer. Typically, symptoms show in around 5 days.

According to current figures, around 80% of people develop mild symptoms, 15% develop severe symptoms and 5% become critically ill. The death rate stated by the World Health Organisation appears to be between 1-2% but these initial figures are unreliable, as the situation is changing daily.

Symptoms and diagnosis

It is believed that COVID-19 starts with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, headache, tiredness, nasal congestion, sore throat, diarrhoea and muscle aches can follow. There’s a new theory suggesting those infected lose their sense of taste and smell early on too, so treat this as an indicator unless advised otherwise.

Although using a thermometer to check for temperature will show whether the person has a fever, it can take a few days for that person to become sick once infected.

Preventing the spread

Good hand hygiene is the best current advice available. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol hand gel. 

Catch coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues and dispose of them correctly as soon as they are used.  If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve. Once you have sneezed or coughed, wash your hands or use alcohol hand gel. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands – this is how the virus gets into your body.

Good surface cleaning is important as COVID-19 does survive on surfaces and you can catch it this way.

Avoiding close contact

Coronavirus can be spread through respiratory droplets as well as via human to human contact and from infected surfaces. These droplets are liquids that can be emitted when we cough or sneeze. The droplets can infect another person when they enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes.  This means any contact of fewer than 2 metres between you and a sick person or someone you suspect of having the infection could potentially cause further spread of the virus.

The current rule in the UK is that if somebody you live with is showing symptoms, you should self-isolate for 14 days.

Wash your hands

Proper hand-washing includes using anti-bacterial soap, not just wetting the hands with water. Alcoholic hand-gels are also effective, but you should try and use anti-bacterial soap where possible. There are many areas of the hands which people miss, including the backs of the thumbs, the tips of the fingers and in between each finger. It is recommended that hand-washing process should take around 20 to 30 seconds minimum. You should remove any jewellery such as rings and watches before washing your hands, as these are often forgotten about but can easily harbour infection. Once you have removed your jewellery, turn the tap on and wet your hands. Apply soap so that it evenly covers all surfaces of both hands. Then rub your palms together in a circular motion, before rubbing between your fingers. After, clean the knuckles and rub your thumbs in a rotating manner, making sure to clean between the thumb and index finger. Finally, clean your fingernails before rinsing thoroughly with water. It’s very important that you properly dry your hands as damp hands spread 1000 x the number of bacteria as dry hands do. It is advised that you use disposable paper towels to dry your hands and that you never use a reusable or communal towel. 

Use hand gel

Alcoholic hand gel is an adequate replacement if anti-bacterial soap is not available, and your hands are not visibly dirty, just potentially contaminated. This process should, like hand-washing, take around 20 to 30 seconds, with similar technique. You must not however then either wash off the gel from your hands or use a dryer or paper towels to dry your hands. The gel will dry on its own and should take less than a minute. Suitable and effective hand gels will contain at least 60% alcohol in them. 

Clean surfaces

Use an S-Shaped motion when wiping down surfaces, which will allow you to cover the entire surface area, such as the sides, corners and edges of surfaces, as these are regularly forgotten but are just as likely to harbour the infection. Regularly change the wipe you are using, especially if it becomes visibly dirty. Also make sure that you are using special antibacterial cleaning wipes.

Wear PPE

If you are caring for someone, you should use the correct protection.