Coronavirus: It's caused global panic, but what are the facts and should we be worried?

Coronavirus: It's caused global panic, but what are the facts?

Image by Ashutosh Goyal from Pixabay

What is Coronavirus? Who is at risk? And how do we avoid it if it arrives in Ireland?

There are some scary headlines going around on the internet as Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 sweeps across Europe.

But how dangerous is it really? And are you at risk of contracting the disease?

The Facts:

As of February 27, 2020, there have been 82,526 cases of Coronavirus across the globe, according to world statistics website, Worldometer.

That's a lot of cases to add up over a few short months, but it's important to note that of those 82,526 cases, a total of 33,198 people have already recovered.

And, while it's the deaths making headlines and causing upset across the globe, there have only been a total of 2,812 deaths. That's a fatality rate of approximately 2%.

To put that into perspective, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the flu kills between 290,000 and 650,000 people per year, making influenza a more deadly virus than COVID-19.

Read also: Westmeath teen being tested for Coronavirus following skiing trip to Italy

There are 46,516 active cases of the virus across the world at the moment, 82% (38,047) of which are mild cases, with the remaining 8,469 (18%) cases considered critical or serious.

While the Coronavirus initially took hold in Wuhan, China, in the final few weeks of 2019, there are now more new cases occurring every day outside of China than there are within.

However, the number of serious and critical cases and new deaths reported is declining worldwide and the number of newly recovered patients has been greater than the number of newly infected every day since February 19.

European Cases:

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland, but a number of tests are being carried out on students who have returned home from skiing trips in Northern Italy over the past number of days.

Italy has reported a total of 470 cases - the majority of those have surfaced within the last week and, in efforts to avoid potential spread of disease here in Ireland, the Irish Rugby Football Union has cancelled the Ireland vs Italy Six Nations matches, which were due to take place in Dublin between March 6 and 8.

There have been 12 deaths from the virus in Italy so far and three recoveries. There are currently only 35 serious or critical cases of the disease reported, with the remaining cases being mild or not serious.

Elsewhere in Europe, Germany has reported 27 cases with no deaths and 15 recoveries. In France, there have been 18 cases, with two deaths and 11 recoveries so far. Spain has reported 14 cases with two deaths. Other European countries have reported less than five cases.

In the UK, there have been 15 cases reported so far, with a total of 8 recoveries and no deaths. There are currently no critical conditions in the UK or Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, it was reported that 90 people in Ireland were being tested for the virus, with all 90 testing negative.

Read also: Longford native caught up in coronavirus nightmare

Potential Pandemic:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced at a press conference on Monday that it is in a "phase of preparedness" for a potential pandemic.

"It is time to do everything you would do in preparing for a pandemic," a spokesperson for WHO explained, but added that it is still too early to declare this a pandemic.

"We're still trying to avoid that reality. We're still trying to avoid that eventuality and countries are having success in doing that."

So what is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, which may cause illnesses in animals or humans, according to the WHO. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. COVID-19 is the most recently discovered coronavirus and it originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Before December, this strain of the disease was unknown.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough - symptoms that are also linked to common colds or the flu, so there's not need to panic if you've been coughing but haven't been to any of the infected countries, or in contact with anyone who has.

In some patients - particularly the elderly or those with underlying health conditions - these symptoms can develop into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Read also: 90 suspected cases of Coronavirus tested in Ireland

Am I at risk?

If, in the last 14 days, you haven't travelled to a country that has been affected by the spread of Coronavirus, or come into contact with people who have, then the likelihood that you'll contract the virus is extremely low.

Aside from that, those most at risk of contracting the disease are the elderly, or those who have pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, according to the WHO.

How does it spread?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales, according to the WHO. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person and other people can catch it by touching these surfaces and then touching their own eyes, nose or mouth. That's why washing your hands regularly is so important.

How can I avoid catching COVID-19?

The WHO website (www.who.int) is keeping a very up-to-date list of protection measures. The HSE is advising people to:

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing - and make sure to bin the tissue.

Should I wear a mask?

People who do not have respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, do not need to wear a medical mask for protection. WHO recommends the use of masks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and for those caring for anyone who has the virus.

WHO also advises rational use of medical masks - if you are using them, don't wear them all the time as this will use up precious resources. Use a mask only if you have a respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have a suspected COVID-19 infection or are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19 infection.

Read also: Guidance to Irish travellers on consumer rights affected by Coronavirus travel restrictions

What should I do if I've been to an affected country in the past 14 days?

If you've been to an affected region in the last 14 days and you're experiencing symptoms, you should self-isolate and call your GP. Self-isolation means staying away from other people completely.

If you are feeling well, however, you shouldn't worry. You will only need to be tested if you have symptoms, which can take up to 14 days to appear.

Anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of the virus i

Anyone who has been to an affected region in the last 14 days, and are well, should visit www.HSE.ie for advice.

There are currently no entry restrictions to Ireland and, in the event of a suspected case, contact tracing forms will be given to passengers and advice will be given to keep an eye out for symptoms.

Airlines are under instructions to decontaminate aircrafts that have had a potential case on board.

Should I cancel my travel plans?

Understandably, anyone with plans to travel to affected areas are starting to worry about their trip. At the moment, the Department of Foreign Affairs is only advising people to avoid non-essential travel to China.

The Italian government has placed travel restrictions on ten towns in the north of the country and Irish citizens are advised not to travel to Codogno, Castiglione D'Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano. 

More information on Coronavirus COVID-19 can be found via the HSE website at www.hse.ie or the World Health Organisation website at www.who.int

Read also: National Public Health Emergency Team prepare for Coronavirus influx

More News

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.