These are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus - and how it spreads

A sign directs people to the nearest NHS coronavirus testing pod (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)A sign directs people to the nearest NHS coronavirus testing pod (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign directs people to the nearest NHS coronavirus testing pod (Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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The current global outbreak of coronavirus - officially named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) - has been declared a pandemic.

If you are feeling unwell and concerned that you may be displaying signs of the virus, these are the symptoms and precautions you need to know.

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What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explaining they usually cause “mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses”, like the common cold.

This particular strain originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, the largest city in central China, and is in the same family as SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

The first suspected cases of the virus were reported at the end of last year on 31 December 2019 in Wuhan, but it has since been confirmed in other parts of China.

Most people get infected with these viruses at some point during their lives, although they usually only last for a short period of time.

Symptoms of the virus may include:

- runny nose

- headache

- cough

- sore throat

- fever

- loss of smell and taste

- a general feeling of being unwell

Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, or more severe diseases such as SARS. However, this is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants and older adults.

How does it spread?

Coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the following means:

- the air by coughing and sneezing

- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands

- touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

- fecal contamination, although this is rare

How to stay safe

There are currently no vaccines to protect against coronavirus infection, but there are ways to help reduce your risk of contracting it.

The CDC advise:

- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands

- avoid close contact with people who are sick

If you are experiencing cold-like symptoms, you can help reduce the risk of spreading it by staying at home while you are ill, and avoiding close contact with others.

You should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw this away before washing your hands. It is also recommended to clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.


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Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS