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Weekly Coronavirus update | It’s a pandemic, but what does that mean?

We're working with qualified epidemiologist and Public Health specialist, Elizabeth Lucy, to answer your questions and bring you practical weekly updates.

Written by High Life North
Published 13.03.2020
Elizabeth Lucy

This week the World Health Organisation “rang the alarm bells loud and clear”. It’s a pandemic, but what does that mean for us?

To put it simply, we are going to see some disruption and this is not going to go away any time soon. That being said, we don’t need to panic, there are things we can do to protect ourselves.

Firstly we need to accept that this coronavirus outbreak is not just the common flu.

Influenza is a type of virus that affects the respiratory system and there are lots of different types of influenza virus. It is often a seasonal illness that can cause sore throat, sickness, cough, fever or tiredness and you are generally infectious and can pass it on to other people when you have symptoms. Lots of people get it every year, millions globally and a proportion do die from flu, on average about 300,000 every year globally (WHO, 2019). Luckily, flu jabs are available every year.

COVID-19 is different from influenza infection in multiple important ways. Firstly, it is completely new, no one has any immunity to this virus what so ever. This means that it is able to spread through populations very quickly without meeting any resistance and there is no vaccination or cure. Current evidence puts the number of possible deaths at least 10 times higher than flu and the coronavirus spreads much faster and easier. The most concerning aspect is that you can have it, or speak to someone who has it, and not show any symptoms but still be infectious. This asymptomatic potential makes it easier to spread.

Now that we know some of the features of the virus, we know why some of the measures are suggested, including self-isolation if you are sick. Because no one wants to be responsible for infecting their gran!


What action can you take?

Stay home if you are sick, don’t go to your GP. Stock up on what you might need for a week or two so you do not have to go food shopping. Get lots of sleep, rest and drink plenty as there is no cure, you just need to support your body as best as you can to fight it off.

On Thursday night, the Prime Minister recommended that you stay at home if you have symptoms. Do not call 111 for mild symptoms, but do call if your symptoms worsen at all.

Practice good hand washing, soap and water is even better than hand gel so don’t worry that it is sold out nationwide. Make sure you wipe clean your phones, light switches and door handles every night and always catch any coughs or sneezes in a tissue.

Be well and see you next week for more updates and advice on the Coronavirus pandemic.

Elizabeth is a qualified epidemiologist and Public Health specialist. If you would like to submit any specific questions to Elizabeth about Coronavirus, email: [email protected]

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