What’s happening with coronavirus in the UK?Megan Orito
What’s happening with coronavirus in the UK?
With every day seeming to bring more cases of coronavirus across the globe, it’s easy to fall into a state of panic. This isn’t helped by the fact that the Department of Health has labelled the illness as a “serious and imminent threat.” To stop widespread anxiety around the virus, here’s exactly what’s going on with coronavirus in the UK.
Coronavirus sounds terrifying because it’s never been seen before in humans, per the Guardian. A virus originating from animals, the first human cases were noted in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019, Time reports, and the first death was recorded on Jan. 9. Now, the virus has spread via human-to-human transmission to other countries, including the UK. On Jan. 31, the first two UK cases were confirmed, per Wired.
With symptoms including coughs, fevers, and breathlessness, coronavirus can cause pneumonia. Currently, there is no specific treatment, but people who are admitted to the hospital may receive fluids and lung support, the Guardian notes.
How many people have been diagnosed in the UK?
So far, eight people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK. As the BBC reports, four more people tested positive on Feb. 10. These are in addition to the four that had previously been diagnosed with the virus.
The first two people to test positive in the UK were both Chinese nationals from the same family, notes the BBC. They are currently being treated at an infectious diseases centre in Newcastle. A third person is believed to have picked up the virus in Singapore, and was taken to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.
The four new cases, meanwhile, are all “known contacts” of a fourth UK case, “and the virus was passed on in France,” England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Witty, told the BBC. They, too, have been taken to specialist centres at London-based hospitals.
How serious is the UK threat?
In a new statement (published Feb. 10), the Department of Health said that the incidence of transmission of coronavirus “constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health.” Stricter measures have also been put in place to force people flying from certain countries to the UK to remain in quarantine for 14 days, per the BBC.
According to BBC political correspondent Iain Watson, a passenger on a flight from Wuhan to the UK “is threatening” to leave the quarantine facility. “Currently the regulations are not strong enough to stop him leaving before the 14-day period is up so they brought in these new regulations to try and compel him to stay put,” Watson explained.
However, the risk to the UK has not changed. It remains at a moderate level, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement. “NHS staff and others will now be supported with additional legal powers to keep people safe across the country,” he said. “The transmission of coronavirus would constitute a serious threat — so I am taking action to protect the public and isolate those at risk of spreading the virus.”
Per the BBC, two isolation facilities have been designated in the UK. These are Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral and Kents Hill Park conference centre in Milton Keynes. Every person evacuated from Wuhan to the UK has been transported to one of these two locations.
Should you be worried?
Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called the coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency, it has not reached pandemic scale. (As the Los Angeles Times explains, this is when a virus or disease spreads to several countries and affects a large number of people.) Thousands of people have been affected in China, but diagnoses figures in the rest of the world are low. Only around 25 countries have reported cases, per the Guardian.
Public Health England is in contact with people who have spent time around those diagnosed with coronavirus to reduce the chance of it spreading, according to the Guardian. But the nation still faces several challenges.
According to Dr Al Edwards, associate professor at the University of Reading, these are “containment, finding everyone infected and stopping the spread, and the treatment of very ill patients, which could easily overwhelm hospitals in any country.” He told the Guardian, “We are lucky we do have fairly rapid tests available, based on detecting the virus in patient blood samples, for example. However, these will only work when the patient is quite sick.”
It is estimated that 1% of people infected with coronavirus may die, per the BBC. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with weaker immune systems, are likely more at risk. But “the risk to individuals remains low,” says the NHS.
As the NHS explains, simple hygiene practices can stop the spread of germs. These include:
- Catching coughs and sneezes in tissue before throwing the tissue away and washing your hands
- Regularly washing hands with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser
- Avoiding close contact with people who are ill
People with symptoms who have travelled from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, or Macau in the past fortnight are also advised to stay indoors, avoid contact with others, and call NHS 111. People travelling to the UK from Wuhan or Hubei Province in the last 14 days should follow this advice, even without symptoms.
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