Press "Enter" to skip to content

What are the symptoms of coronavirus? How dangerous is it?

As the potentially deadly coronavirus reaches the UK, we answer all your questions.

What is a coronavirus – and what traits does this one have? What are the symptoms and how easily does it spread?

Here’s what you need to know.

Image: The new virus originated in the city of Wuhan

What are the symptoms?

There are a number of common signs that you may be infected, most of which are respiratory such as experiencing breathing difficulties, shortness of breath and having a cough.


You may also have a fever.

More serious cases could lead to potentially deadly conditions such as pneumonia and kidney failure, with the former having been reported among some patients in China at the moment.

More from Coronavirus Coronavirus: Masks ‘going for £125’ as profiteers take advantage of surging demand in Hong Kong Coronavirus: Briton in ‘frantic’ dash to get family on Wuhan evacuation flight Coronavirus: Virologist reveals the science behind fight to find vaccine for global outbreak Coronavirus: UK cuts diplomatic staff in China over outbreak Coronavirus outbreak declared global public health emergency by WHO Coronavirus: What is a global health emergency and how could it affect you? Image: The current strain has not yet been identified

What is a coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes coronaviruses as a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.

When a new strain emerges that has not yet been identified, as is the case with the current outbreak in China, it temporarily becomes known as a novel coronavirus (nCoV).

The current outbreak has been dubbed “Wuhan virus”, named after the city where the first report emerged in January.

All coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.

Christopher Coleman, assistant professor of infection immunology at Nottingham University, told Sky News: “They get their name because under the electron microscope there’s a bright ring around the central core of the virus, like the sun essentially.”

Listen to “How dangerous is the coronavirus?” on Spreaker.

:: Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

What does self-isolation mean?

People who have returned to the UK from Wuhan in China are being told to stay in for 14 days, and to “self-isolate”.

Self-isolation involves not going to work, school or into public places.

People should also avoid having visitors, although it is okay for family and friends to drop off parcels or medicines, for example.

They should also not use public transport for a fortnight after returning to Britain.

Does the current outbreak have any specific traits?

Since first being reported in the city of Wuhan, where it is believed to have originated at a seafood market, the virus has not provoked unusual symptoms in people who have been diagnosed.

Doctors have seen fever, coughing and breathing difficulties, which are all to be expected.

What remains unknown is how exactly this nCoV came about and how easily it could spread, with researchers at Imperial College London suggesting on 20 January there could have been more than 1,700 cases in Wuhan alone by that point, when Chinese authorities were reporting just 62.

Image: Wuhan authorities are working to stop the virus spreading

Should you be concerned about travelling?

Chinese authorities confirmed this nCov can be transmitted between humans, with dozens of medical staff contracting the virus after treating infected patients.

The UK Foreign Office advised Britons against all but essential travel to mainland China, and airlines around the world grounde flights or offered full refunds or destination and date changes.

Thousands of cases have been identified in China, including in every province of the country.

Countries across Asia, Europe, Australia and North America have also had confirmed cases, including the UK.

Major global airports, including London Heathrow, are monitoring people arriving from China for signs of illness.

The risk to the UK population was raised from very low to low, and now it has been upgraded to moderate.

Public Health England says the country is “well prepared for new diseases”.

Image: The cause of the virus has not yet been established

What is China doing about it?

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to tackle the spread of the virus, saying: “People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed.”

Wuhan’s local transport networks – including bus, subway and ferries – were suspended, and airport and train stations were closed to outgoing passengers.

Authorities asked citizens not to leave the city unless there are special circumstances.

Image: Passengers arrive in Beijing for lunar new year

When has something like this happened before?

The 2003 outbreak of SARS killed 774 people across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia, and the current outbreak is considered to be more closely related to that virus than any other.

Another prominent coronavirus to emerge since the turn of the century is Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and killed more than 800 people.

The WHO says humans are mostly infected with MERS through direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels, and human-to-human transmission is rare.

Professor Coleman was involved in some of the first research into MERS in the US.

He told Sky News: “SARS and MERS are the two severe coronaviruses. There are four that are very mild that people can get very regularly.”

Image: Families leave the Wuhan Medical Treatment Centre

How can you protect yourself from coronaviruses?

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, of the WHO’s emerging diseases unit, says it is important that you keep up basic hand and respiratory hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue.

“Ways to protect yourself against a potential animal source would be to avoid unnecessary contact with live animals and make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly after contact with an animal,” she adds.

“And also to make sure that your meat is cooked thoroughly before consuming.”

Image: Many are wearing masks to protect themselves

Can you be treated?

There are no reliable vaccines available to rid your body of a coronavirus.

The best you can do is take medicines and treatments for specific symptoms.

Professor Coleman told Sky News: “Unfortunately there is no vaccine and no specific therapeutics that can be used against the coronavirus.

“Standard respiratory support therapies are used to treat the symptoms and wait for the virus to be cleared by itself.”


Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *