Coronavirus fears continue to mount as the death toll exceeds 1,300 in China, causing widespread panic. In a bid to contain the crisis and crack down on potential oversight, high-ranking officials have been sacked in Hubei province, where the outbreak began.
Amid the hysteria, the risk of misinformation and false alarms is high, particularly as there is no current vaccine for the virus.
It is also not yet understood exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, leading to much speculation.
Official health bodies have issued steps you can take to avoid catching or spreading germs, however.
The NHS recommends the following:
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneezePut used tissues in the bin straight awayWash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not availableTry to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
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As the WHO explains, the most recent outbreak that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
The main symptoms of coronavirus are:
A coughA high temperatureShortness of breath
What should I do if I suspect I have it?
According to the NHS, if there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to isolate yourself.
This means that for 14 days after returning from China or other specified areas, you should:
Stay at homeNot go to work, school or public areasNot use public transport or taxisAsk friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for youTry to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food
“While the risk to people in the UK is low, these steps can help reduce the possible spread of infection,” explains the NHS.
Busting coronavirus myths
According to WHO, one false claim being pedalled is that hand dryers are effective in killing the new coronavirus.
According to the health body, hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV.
“To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water,” advises the health site.
Another claim is that spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body can kill the new coronavirus, but this is not the case.
In fact, spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth), warns WHO.
“Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations,” adds the health site.
Despite fears, it is also safe to receive a letter or a package from China, says WHO.
“From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages,” it adds.