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Coronavirus Q&A: The symptoms to watch out for, where to go for help - and what happens to prevent contagion

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Preventative action: A worker cleans his goggles to spray disinfectant at a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: AP

Preventative action: A worker cleans his goggles to spray disinfectant at a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: AP

AP

Preventative action: A worker cleans his goggles to spray disinfectant at a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: AP

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What is the most up to date level of knowledge about the symptoms of the new coronavirus. How different is it to a cold or flu?

Symptoms include cough, high temperature and shortness of breath.

There appears to be a slight difference from regular flu which tends to start with a runny nose and upper respiratory tract symptoms. The coronavirus can strike further down the respiratory system - more at the top of the chest. People who had it describe a fever or dry cough.

What about the days before the symptoms appear - are there signs it could be coming on?

Sufferers have recalled feeling exhausted about two days before with pains in the limbs. Symptoms are thought to appear between two and 10 days after contracting the virus but maybe up to 24 days.

What else are the risk factors?

The risk applies to anyone who has been to an affected region in the past 14 days - China, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran and four areas in northern Italy: Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont.

It also applies to anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the past 14 days. Close contact can mean, more than 15 minutes face-to-face or living in the same accomodation as an infected person.

If I think I have symptoms and fit the risk what should I do?

Ring your GP. Don't go to the surgery or hospital A&E. The doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as when your symptoms began, where have you travelled recently, who had you been in close contact with and how severe are your symptoms.

The doctor will contact the public health section of the HSE. Depending on their assessment you may be told you need to go to hospital or testing centre where a swab will be taken and sent to lab to test for the coronavirus.

Until recently the numbers referred for testing were manageable and they were brought to hospital by ambulance. Now people are being told to provide their own transport.

Is that not a risk - if the suspect case later tests positive they will have put the driver of the car in danger?

It seems contradictory to the instruction to self-isolate and avoid contact with others until you get the all-clear.

The less contact a suspect case has the better. The theory is that if the driver is a family member they may already have been exposed.

Why is this decision being taken?

It's a question of priorities. Ambulances are needed for emergencies. There needs to be a balance made between managing the coronavirus and the delivery of essential care to other patients.

What happened to ambulances after taking a suspected sufferer to and from hospital?

They had to be decontaminated.

What happens after the swab is taken?

Unless you need to be hospitalised you will be sent home and told to self-isolate, which needs to be strictly enforced. You should avoid contact with family members, not accept visitors and maybe communicate by phone only.

You cannot share cups or utensils and keep your room well ventilated. You should ensure others wait an hour before using the same bath or shower as the patient

How do I know if I am positive for the new coronavirus?

The test result should be back within 12 to 24 hours.

How severe is the coronavirus?

For most people it is a mild illness. Around two in every 100 die from it and it can be particularly severe for older people and those with underlying illnesses.

If I am positive will I have to go to hospital?

Not unless you need hospital care or doctors believe you are better off in an isolation ward.

It is possible to recover from the virus at home but again rigid self-isolation measures need to be followed to ensure it is not passed on to others.

How is the virus treated?

Currently, no antiviral medication is recommended to treat infection with the new coronavirus.

Treatment is directed at relieving symptoms and may include pain relievers, cough syrup or medication, rest and fluid intake.

What impact can it have on the infected patient?

It is known to cause pneumonia in some patients.

Serious illness will depend on how the person's immune system responds. That can depend on their age and underlying conditions they already have.

If I recover from the virus can I contract it again?

A woman working as a tour bus guide in Japan has tested positive for coronavirus for a second time.

Authorities believe it is the first such case there. But other similar cases were reported in China.

The woman, who is in her 40s and a resident of Osaka in western Japan, tested positive in late February after developing a sore throat and chest pains.

She was discharged from hospital after first recovering on February 1 before testing negative on February 6.

This is going to continue to spread. Is there any sign of a vaccine?

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and drugmaker Moderna have been developing a vaccine which is ready to be tested and it is hoped that there will be results available in July or August.

Irish Independent


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