Wash your hands.
With two new cases of coronavirus confirmed in the UK this morning (both patients are believed to have contracted the virus in Italy and Tenerife), experts are encouraging the public in Ireland to spend at least 20 seconds on hand hygiene in regular bursts to prevent the spread of the disease.
More than 81,000 people have already contracted the virus, which has spread to 44 countries, and there have been 2,663 deaths, mostly in China. Virologists believe it is inevitable that new cases will be reported in Ireland, although none of the 90 suspected cases so far has tested positive.
The Department of Health has said the country remains in what it calls a containment phase.
As of today, experts say cases of the disease in Europe can be linked to the Lombardy region of Italy, where more than 400 cases have been confirmed. Spain, France, Germany, Estonia and Denmark have also reported cases, with hundreds of holidaymakers currently quarantined at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in Tenerife after an Italian doctor and his wife tested positive for the virus.
Here in Cork, pharmacists say they have seen a significant increase in customers buying hand sanitiser and face masks.
Here’s what we know about coronavirus so far:
1. It’s not more dangerous than other viruses, but it spreads faster
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus so humans have no immunity to it. Many people with coronavirus will only experience very mild symptoms and will make a full recovery. Like any virus however, it can be dangerous for people with weakened immune systems.
The virus is spread from one person to another via respiratory droplets, which enter the air when an affected person coughs or sneezes.
It may only survive a few hours if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) February 27, 2020
2. It can take up to 14 days for the symptoms to appear.
These symptoms may include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever (high temperature). In some cases, Coronavirus can also cause more severe illness including pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure.
3. Am I at risk?
As it stands, there has been no confirmed case of coronavirus in Ireland but there is an increased risk of catching coronavirus in Europe. This is according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Their advice follows the increase in coronavirus cases in Italy.
According to the HSE: “If there is a case here, health professionals will try to contact anyone who has been in contact with the infected person. You do not need to follow any advice in relation to coronavirus if you have not been to a country or region with a spread of coronavirus, not been in contact with a person who has coronavirus, not been to a healthcare facility where patients with coronavirus were treated.”
If you think you have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus phone HSELive on 1850 24 1850.
4. How can I protect myself against coronavirus?
Frequent handwashing is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease. Experts recommend regular handwashing using hot water, soaping hands for the length of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ – about 20 seconds.
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) February 26, 2020
5. You cannot get coronavirus from packages or food
There is no evidence that animals or animal products legally imported into the EU are a health risk due to coronavirus. Viruses only survive for a few hours on a surface so shipped items are unlikely to pose any risk.
6. Do I need to be tested for coronavirus?
According to the HSE, you will only need to be tested for coronavirus if you have symptoms and have in the last 14 days been:
- in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus
- to a country or region with a spread of coronavirus
- in a healthcare centre or hospital where patients with coronavirus were being treated
- If your doctor thinks that you need a test for coronavirus, they will tell you where the test will be done. They will also tell you when to expect your results.
7. Do I need to self-isolate?
Self-isolation involved staying indoors and avoiding contact with other people until your symptoms subside or you seek medical advice. It is only recommended if you have recently returned from Northern Italy, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar since February 19th, 2020 or you have visited China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau and you have symptoms of a cold or ‘Flu.
For regular updates and health advice, visit the HSE website.