You may not show signs of coronavirus when infected - here's why

Since the initial outbreak of coronavirus hit headlines across the world, discussions around symptoms, recovery rates and containment are going on daily.

Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified Europe as the centre of the outbreak and declared Covid-19 as a pandemic. This led to cities, and even countries, across Europe going into total lockdown to stop the spread of this infectious disease.

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Can you have no symptoms of coronavirus?

It is likely that the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus can infect you before you experience symptoms. After you are infected with the common flu virus, you will often see symptoms one or two days after. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms from Covid-19 can develop anywhere between two and 14 days after contracting the virus.

You can still infect other people while displaying no symptoms. Provided your immune system is strong, your body can potentially fight off the virus without even feeling unwell.

But, if you are elderly, or are immunocompromised - perhaps due to illness or medicines such as chemotherapy - then your body will not be ready to fight the virus, and you will become critically ill.

Symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.

How does Covid-19 infect others?

Coronaviruses are predominantly respiratory diseases that primarily affect the lungs. This means that coughing particles of the virus into the air can transmit the disease to another person. If you get it on your hands, you may touch a surface that can become infected and pass on the virus to someone who touches it after.

But Covid-19 does not absorb into your skin. It has to go via a mucus-membrane which is likely to be your eyes, nose, or mouth. That's how the virus gets into your system. Calling it "airborne" is confusing because that means many things to different scientists.

Currently, it is believed that someone with Covid-19 will infect roughly two other people - but many may not know they are infected.

The NHS has launched an online guide to assist you with what to do if you think you might have caught Covid-19.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

As of the 12 March the Government has moved into the "delay" phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus. Advice is that anyone with a continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days. People over 70 have been advised not to go on cruises and schools advised to cancel trips abroad, though schools remain open.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS