It is probably worth mentioning that a normal coronavirus causes colds every year. This year we have seen a new one develop. We have seen this happen twice in recent history, SARS and MERS.
Viruses change all the time. They mutate – and they make great headlines and movies when they do.
We in Brighton are caught in the current news cycle because we had the earliest outbreak in the UK.
The new coronavirus is contagious. We now know it’s more so than SARS, its early predecessor.
It can kill people – we believe approximately 2-3% – and these people tend to have an underlying condition which makes them far more susceptible.
We can protect ourselves. Use a tissue when you sneeze, throw it away and wash your hands. When you get to work, wash your hands. Then when you get home from work, wash your hands.
The virus probably spreads by touch on door handles, etc. Use hand sanitisers.
Masks may help but probably more by preventing you from touching your face after you have touched a door handle than inhaling the virus directly.
We do not know what will happen with this virus yet but we do know it is not the zombie plaque and people should remain calm and sensible.
We have vaccines against other viruses but not this one yet. Remember, flu vaccination is very effective but people still don’t take it up – and approximately 15,000 people die each year in the UK from flu.
Also, don’t forget that several children had measles in Brighton – a potentially deadly virus that was eradicated in the UK only a few years ago – because some people don’t vaccinate their kids.
This coronavirus is a new virus but there are plenty of old viruses out there at the moment and when we can protect ourselves, workmates, friends and families from them, we should.
The best things people can do during this new coronavirus outbreak are
- Keep calm
- If you have a cough, sneezes, etc, stay at home, don’t be selfish and spread it to others – and if you feel particularly unwell, call 111, especially if you have a pre-existing condition
- If you sneeze, use a tissue, bin it and then wash your hands
- If you cough, cough into the crux of your elbow, not your hands, otherwise you just risk spreading the virus to the next door handle you touch
- Wash your hands at every opportunity and use hand sanitisers if you cannot.
Dr Rob Lambkin-Williams is an independent virologist living in Brighton (virologyconsult.com)