Coronavirus threat level has been raised from low to moderate in the wake of two cases being confirmed in the UK.
In response to the escalating crisis, chief medical officer for England, Dr Professor Chris Whitty, said: “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.
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“The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.”
He added: “We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.”
Despite the UK’s ongoing assurances, Brits have been preparing for the worst.
As data website Blueclaw shows, searches for “face masks” have surged by 88 percent over the past 30 days.
How can I protect myself?
While the research is mixed on the protective benefits of wearing face masks, the World Health Organisation has issued standard recommendations for protecting yourself against the pathogen.
According to the health body, a key protective measure is to wash your hands with soap and running water when hands are visibly dirty.
If hands are not visibly dirty, frequently clean them by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
It also recommends the following tips:
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough;
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider;
- When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
- The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
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How to protect others
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you have cold-like symptoms, there are a number of steps you should take to protect the spread of infection.
It recommends the following:
- Stay home while you are sick
- Avoid close contact with others
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces
How do I know if I have it?
Coronavirus belongs to a family of respiratory infections that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS and MERS.
Currently reported symptoms include fever, a cough, headache or difficulty breathing.
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Cases of human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, however.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.
Two cases confirmed in the UK – what we know so far
According to Professor Whitty, the two patients are being treated at a hospital in Newcastle.
Wednesday night, an apartment-hotel in Yorkshire was put on lockdown when a man, understood to be a Chinese national, was taken to hospital after falling ill.
The man, who was a guest at the Staycity Hotel in the centre of York, was taken to hospital, together with family members, by medics. However, it is not confirmed whether the two cases are linked.
The news comes after a flight carrying 83 Britons and 27 foreign nationals from Wuhan in China has landed in the UK.
Elsewhere, there are currently more than 100 cases in total across another 22 countries, including Australia, Singapore, Thailand and France.
All 213 deaths so far from the virus have occurred in China, where cases of the virus have reached nearly 10,000.
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