Great Britain

Coronavirus symptoms — the 5 early warning signs to look out for and how it differs from flu

BRITS are being urged to be alert to the signs and symptoms of coronavirus - as the new deadly bug sweeps Europe.

Two new cases were confirmed in the UK - bringing the total to 15, while Italy has recorded 528 cases and 14 deaths.

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Experts have warned the "tipping point" for the coronavirus outbreak is getting closer, as the number of cases globally continued to soar - with concerns raised about an outbreak in Iran.

The global infection toll now stands at more than 82,000, with 2,810 deaths attributed to the  killer virus.

Fears are mounting that the outbreak is on the brink of becoming a pandemic with disruptive and deadly consequences for the rest of the world, following sharp rises of infections outside of China.

It comes as 35 schools across the UK are on lockdown amid fears the virus will spread, and at least two London offices were evacuated yesterday.

Meanwhile, Brit holidaymakers are trapped in a Tenerife hotel after an Italian couple were diagnosed, and Public Health England has warned people travelling to any affected areas to quarantine themselves for two weeks on their return if they've come into contact with someone showing symptoms.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is the name for a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Sars.

The new disease that emerged in Wuhan, China in December, was named COVID-19, by the WHO - and has never been seen in humans before the current outbreak.

Coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, causing pneumonia-like lung lesions.

The new strain is thought to have jumped from bats to humans, via a possible but unknown animal, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from catching COVID-19 is to be aware of the symptoms.

Here, we take you through the early warning signs to be aware of, how to protect yourself and when to get medical help...

What are the early warning signs?

According to the NHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO), early symptoms of coronavirus infection usually include:

  1. A runny nose
  2. A cough and/or sore throat
  3. A high temperature
  4. Feeling tired
  5. Difficulty breathing

These symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and the common cold.

However, this new strain is said to more likely to trigger a cough and fever, experts have noted.

And they warn the condition can progress and victims can develop severe complications.

To find out more about whether you should travel, click on your country of choice: Is it safe to travel to Tenerife, Italy, Austria, Greece and Thailand.

These include pneumonia and swelling in the lungs, which can make it hard for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream - leading to organ failure and death.

Severe pneumonia can kill people by causing them to "drown" in the fluid flooding their lungs.

How quickly do symptoms come on?

The virus is transmitted between people in droplets from coughing and sneezing and touching or shaking hands.

Symptoms are thought to appear between two and ten days after contracting the virus.

But it may be up to 24 days.

And worse still there is also some evidence, as yet unconfirmed, that the virus can be spread by asymptomatic people — that is people carrying the virus but have not become ill yet.

Should this be correct it may make the virus considerably more difficult to control.

When should I seek help?

If you have travelled to Wuhan or Hubei Province in China (or another significantly affected area) in the last 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone who has and feel unwell, call NHS 111 for advice now.

You should also call NHS 111 if you have travelled to other parts of China, including Macau and Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Republic of Korea or Malaysia in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath.

Public Health England defines close contact as being within two metres of someone for 15 minutes or more or sharing a room for a prolonged period.

The NHS urges people to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as, if you have the virus, you risk spreading it to others.

Health experts are urging people not to go straight to your doctors' surgery, over fears people will spread the bug there too - but do seek medical help by calling NHS 111.

If you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, continue to follow this advice.

Do not leave your house without getting advice from a doctor.

How can I protect myself?

The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

It says that in order to reduce your risk of infection, you should:

If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with others.

You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands.

Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.

Dr Daniel Atkinson, clinical lead at Treated.com, said: "Hygiene is incredibly important to ward off any viruses.

"Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly - for at least 20 seconds - and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

"If you can, avoid contact with sick people and avoid shaking hands with anyone displaying flu-like symptoms."

Currently there is no vaccine to protect people against the virus.

Suspected coronavirus patient runs away from police in Wuhan, China