Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan city, China. It can cause a new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia).
Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
This is a rapidly changing situation which is being monitored carefully.
Higher risk of severe illness
Some people are at higher risk of developing severe illness with coronavirus. These people should strictly followphysical distancing measures.
aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
under 70 and instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds
And those with:
chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
chronic kidney disease
chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
problems with their spleen, for example sickle cell disease
a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
a BMI of 40 or above who are seriously overweight
Extremely high risk of severe illness
Some groups of people are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with coronavirus. These people should strictly followphysical distancing and hygiene measures.
Their household and other contacts should strictly followphysical distancingand hygiene measures to protect them.
Extremely high-risk group
This group includes people with:
cancer and are receiving active chemotherapy
lung cancer and are either receiving or previously received radical radiotherapy
cancers of the blood or bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, severe COPD, severe bronchiectasis and pulmonary hypertension
rare diseases, including all forms of interstitial lung disease/sarcoidosis, and inborn errors of metabolism (such as SCID and homozygous sickle cell) that significantly increase the risk of infections
an absent spleen or have had their spleen removed
significant heart disease (congenital or acquired) and are pregnant
Down’s syndrome (adults)
stage 5 kidney disease
And those that have had:
solid organ transplants
bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
immunosuppression therapies that significantly increase the risk of infection
renal dialysis treatment
I'm not sure if I fall into one of the more vulnerable groups. What should I do?
If you have an underlying health condition or take medicines regularly but you're not sure whether or not you fall into one of the more vulnerable groups, you should phone your GP practice and say you want advice about your underlying condition or your medicines.
People who are considered to be extremely vulnerable to severe illness will receive a letter giving them further advice, but if you remain unsure, contact your GP.
Symptoms of coronavirus
The most common symptoms are new:
fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia)
A new continuous cough is where you:
have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
are coughing more than usual
A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.
Some people will have more serious symptoms, including pneumonia or difficulty breathing, which might require admission to hospital.
Could I have coronavirus?
Use this guide to find out what to do next if you have developed any of these symptoms and are worried about coronavirus.
If a child or adult develops fever following a vaccination, this would normally be within the first 48 hours after the time of vaccination and should usually go away within 48 hours from the start of your symptoms. It is quite common to have a fever after a vaccination.
You should only self-isolate or book a test during this time if you also either:
have other coronavirus symptoms (a new continuous cough or a loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste)
have been told by NHS Test and Protect that you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus
live with someone who has recently tested positive for coronavirus
How soon after contact with the virus do people become unwell?
Because this is a new virus, we do not know enough to have a precise incubation period. Experience so far suggests the average time it takes for symptoms to develop is 4 to 6 days after exposure, but it may be as short as 1 day or much longer.
Do the people I live with need to take any action?
If you live with other people and have symptoms, they'll need to stay at home for 14 days from the start of your symptoms even if they don’t have symptoms themselves.
If they develop symptoms within the 14 days, they need to stay at home for 10 days from the day their symptoms started andarrange to be tested. They should do this even if it takes them over the 14-day isolation period.
Currently, there's no vaccine and no specific treatment for the virus.
There’s no evidence to show a link between ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), and catching or making coronavirus worse.
Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to help with the symptoms of coronavirus if needed, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol or NSAIDs are not suitable for you. Use these medications according to the instructions on the packet or label and do not exceed the recommended dose.
Longer-term effects of coronavirus
While most people recover quickly from coronavirus, a significant group experience longer-term symptoms. This has been referred to as ‘long-COVID’ or ‘post-COVID syndrome’.
These symptoms are not limited to people who were seriously unwell or hospitalised when they first caught the virus.
As this is a new condition our understanding is developing all the time. It can present with clusters of symptoms, which often overlap. These may change over time and can affect anywhere in the body.
If you are worried about your symptoms, or they are getting worse, contact your GP. The primary care team within your GP practice can provide advice, monitor changes in your symptoms and, where appropriate, refer you to a specialist to investigate your symptoms or to community rehabilitation services to support your recovery.
Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus should:
use their own towels and bed linen
wash these separately from other people living in the household
Don’t shake dirty laundry as this can spread the virus through the air.
Items that may have been contaminated with the virus aren’t considered to be infectious after 3 days. This includes any personal items or clothing used by someone who has had symptoms.
After 3 days you can:
place rubbish bags containing personal waste, such as tissues used by someone with symptoms, in the normal waste
take laundry used by someone who is ill to a launderette
Regular household cleaning is important to remove the virus from surfaces and household items quickly.
Returning unused medications
You can now return unused medicines to your community pharmacy for disposal. However, you cannot return essential medicines if you:
have or have had coronavirus symptoms (or a positive test result) and are still within your 10 days self-isolation period
are self-isolating for 14 days as someone you live with has or has had symptoms
have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive