What is the coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold. They can also cause more severe conditions such as pneumonia, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS). The COVID-19 strain of coronavirus was not previously known.
What causes coronavirus (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is spread from an infected person to another person in close contact through:
COVID-19 can be spread via contaminated surfaces as well.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 symptoms typically develop in five to six days. The main symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- fever and chills
- high temperature
- a new continuous cough
- shortness of breath
- blocked and runny nose
- loss of taste and smell
- sore throat
It’s also possible that you won’t have any symptoms (asymptomatic). In more severe cases the virus can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and death. The risk of these complications can depend on age, existing conditions and weakened immune systems.
You can test to see if you have coronavirus using a lateral flow test which you can do at home. Lateral flow tests are available to buy at pharmacies and supermarkets.
How long does coronavirus (COVID-19) last?
For most people, COVID-19 symptoms can last between 4 to 12 weeks. But sometimes it may go on for longer than 12 weeks. Having symptoms for longer than 12 weeks has been referred to as long COVID. This is when you still have ongoing symptoms after COVID-19 infection that can’t be explained by another illness.
How can I protect myself and others?
The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines teach your body’s immune system to recognise and fight off harmful diseases that it hasn’t come into contact with before. A vaccine contains a weakened version of a virus or bacteria so that your body can make antibodies against it.
For example, the COVID-19 vaccines work by giving your body a set of instructions to create the antibodies and cells needed to fight off COVID-19. Antibodies kill viruses in your body so that you don’t get ill. This is called immunisation.
You can make an appointment for the coronavirus vaccine on the NHS website. There are currently four vaccines for coronavirus that have been approved for use in the UK – Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Novavax and Moderna.
You will need to have two doses of the vaccine at two separate appointments; you can also get a third booster dose. You might have some mild side effects after vaccination such as pain in your arm, headache, chills and tiredness. But, these should pass in a few days.
To prevent the spread of germs, carry out basic hygiene measures, such as the following.
- Wash your hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, using running water and soap. Use an alcohol-based gel if water and soap isn’t available.
- Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or tissue – not your hand. Put the tissue immediately in the bin and wash your hands.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if you’re hands aren’t clean.
- Clean surfaces in your house that are touched often, like door handles or phone screens.
- Stay away from unwell people.
If you do become infected with COVID-19, you should wear a mask if you need to go out to protect others. Wearing a mask can prevent particles from your nose and mouth reaching other people.