There have so far been more than 82,000 global cases of the new coronavirus, more than 78,000 of them in China. The disease, which has spread to more than 50 countries, has been declared a global health emergency, and more than 2,700 people have died.
Here are the BBC News Health team’s answers to a range of of readers’ questions about the disease.
I am breastfeeding my five-month-old baby – what should I do if I get coronavirus? – Maeve McGoldrick
Mothers pass on protection from infection to their babies through their breast milk. If your body is producing antibodies to fight the infection, these would be passed on through breast feeding.
Breastfeeding mums should follow the same advice as anyone else over reducing risk. This is to cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, throw away a used tissue straight away and wash hands frequently, while trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
My mother-in-law, in her 80s, regularly attends church. What’s the advice about sharing a communion cup? – Joanna Gordon, Walton-on-Thames
A number of churches have issued advice regarding coronavirus. The Church of England says that there is no government advice suggesting that the use of shared communion cups should be suspended.
But it says that intinction – where the communion bread is dipped in wine – is not recommended as it can allow infections to spread, and pose a risk to people with certain allergies.
And it adds that churches should already be following best-hygiene practices, including advising priests and other church officials at communion to ensure their hands are clean.
Until there is an outbreak in the UK – and it’s being passed from person to person, which isn’t happening at the moment – sharing a communion cup is no more dangerous than it would be during the average winter when flu is circulating.
How do you stand insurance-wise if you have to be quarantined during an overseas holiday? – Mrs Dal, Manchester
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says this depends on the type of holiday you booked.
If you are quarantined while on holiday, you should first approach the company through which you booked it for advice on what to do.
It is expected that the government or authority which imposed the quarantine will cover the costs of food and accommodation.
If the quarantine period extends beyond the time that you would have spent on holiday you should contact your travel insurer. Depending on your policy, you may be able to claim for out-of-pocket costs associated with an extended stay,
If your holiday is booked with a firm that is protected by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing scheme, then you should be covered for the cost of the return flights.
That usually applies to package holidays only. For flight-only arrangements, the ABI says, this will depend on your travel insurance cover.
In addition, if you have arranged your own travel and accommodation you should check the details of your insurance cover.
You can read the ABI’s detailed advice on coronavirus and travel here.
How dangerous is coronavirus for people who, like me, have asthma? – Lesley-Anne, Falkirk
Respiratory infections, such as coronavirus, can trigger the symptoms of asthma.
Asthma UK advises those who are concerned about the virus to follow a series of steps to manage their asthma.
These include taking a preventer inhaler daily as prescribed. This helps cut the risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.
If asthma symptoms become worse at any point, call NHS 111 or make a next-day GP appointment. Anyone having an asthma attack should follow the steps on their asthma action plan and call 999 for an ambulance if needed.
Asthma UK’s full advice regarding coronavirus can be found here.
If my husband and I got the virus, could our pets be infected? – Pat Jackson
No. According to the World Health Organization there is no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted between humans and your family pet.
Coronaviruses occur in almost all animal species, including humans. They are usually specific to a single species and transmission between species is very uncommon.
But you should still make sure that after touching your pets you wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Pets can carry bacteria like E.coli and salmonella and these bugs can pass between pets and humans.
My boss has been in contact with someone who has had to self-quarantine due to coronavirus. Should I also self-quarantine? – Elsie Petherbridge
A number of firms have asked staff to work from home as a precaution against coronavirus. This was after some of their employees experienced symptoms following a return from affected countries.
But Public Health England (PHE) has said that there is no need to send staff home from work, as most potential cases turn out to be negative. PHE does not recommend closing workplaces, even if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus.
UK health authorities are currently advising people to self-isolate if:
- They are awaiting a test result for coronavirus
- They have had close contact with a confirmed infected person
- They have returned from some places affected by the virus
Detailed advice on coronavirus and the workplace can be found here.
Will people who have already had pneumonia experience milder symptoms from coronavirus? – Marje, Montreal, Canada
The new coronavirus can, in a small number of cases, lead to pneumonia, most notably in people with pre-existing lung conditions.
But as this is a new strain of coronavirus, no-one will have any immunity to it. So having had pneumonia, or any other form of coronavirus like Sars, will not provide immunity from this new coronavirus and the lung illness (Covid-19) it can lead to.
The World Health Organization has said it may be 18 months before a vaccine against the coronavirus is publicly available.
I am five months pregnant and want to understand the risk to the baby if I get infected with coronavirus. BBC website reader
Scientists don’t have any reason to believe that pregnant women are more susceptible to coronavirus than anyone else. PHE says the risk of anyone getting it in the UK is low.
It’s important to follow simple hygiene advice to protect yourself from the virus. This includes washing your hands with soap and water often, not touching your face, eyes or mouth with your unwashed hands and avoiding people who are unwell.
If you believe that you may have coronavirus, have been in contact with someone with the virus, or have travelled from certain parts of the world, the advice is to stay indoors and call the NHS 111 phone service.
Why are governments going to such extreme measures to combat coronavirus when flu appears to be more deadly? – Lorraine Smith, Harlow
These are containment measures to try to stop the virus from becoming a pandemic and spreading freely between people around the world.
Quarantining cities and telling people to stay at home may seem extreme – but the alternative is to let the virus spread unrestrained.
There is no vaccine for this new virus, as there is for flu, which makes elderly people and those with underlying health conditions very vulnerable to its effects.
In China, these measures appear to be working as new daily cases of the virus have now started to decline.
Can coronavirus be transmitted by things like door handles and how long does it survive? – Jean Jimenez, Panama
If someone infected with the virus coughs on to their hand and then touches something, that surface may become contaminated. Door handles are a good example of a surface that might pose a risk.
It’s not yet known how long the new coronavirus might be able to live on such surfaces. Experts suspect it is hours rather than days but it is best to wash your hands regularly to help reduce the risk of infection and spread of the virus.
Once you’ve had coronavirus, will you then be immune? – Denise Mitchell, Bicester, Oxfordshire
When people recover from an infection, their body is left with some memory of how to fight it should they encounter it again. This immunity is not always long-lasting or totally efficient, however, and can decrease over time. It is not known how long immunity might last after being infected.
Is a face mask useful against the virus and how often does it have to be replaced? – Tom Lim, Bali, Indonesia
There is very little evidence wearing face masks makes a difference. Experts say good hygiene – such as regularly washing your hands and certainly before putting them near your mouth – is vastly more effective.
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