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Is it flu or Coronovirus?

February 2020

Man coughing
Can you tell if it's just a normal cough?

Most of us will now be aware of coronavirus. Details of this virus has been all over the media and it is scary how it can be passed on.

Sadly, at this time of year many of us will get a cold, a cough or even flu, and it is easy to be really worried we may have caught coronavirus instead.

Detailed information of how the coronavirus spreads is still under examination, but it is believed to spread mainly from person to person who are within close contact, around 6 feet or less. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets from this can land in the mouth or noses of nearby people or even be inhaled into the lungs. Then the virus has a new home. It may be possible to catch coronavirus by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching one’s mouth or even eyes, but it is early days to know for sure and scientists are still researching exactly how the virus spreads. However, it is known that it spreads easily and quickly.

A problem for us here in the UK is that mid winter is also our maximum flu time, and it can be easy to panic and think the first sneeze or fever could be attributed to this new virus.

Unfortunately, there are only subtle differences between the symptoms of flu and the symptoms of coronavirus. With flu, the symptoms can come on suddenly and can include a range of problems such as fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches and a runny or stuffy nose. It seems the main symptoms of coronavirus are a high temperature, cough and a shortness of breath.

If you are developing symptoms, it is worth considering if you have been in contact with anyone who has travelled to a high risk area such as China, Singapore, Hong Kong or Thailand, or Northern Italy, or whether there are any cases of coronavirus in your region.

Official advice is that if you have had contact with anyone you know who has coronavirus, or with someone recently returned from south east Asia, and you have a cough, a high temperature or a shortness of breath, then do not go to your local GP surgery but call NHS 111.  They will advise you.

Otherwise, continue as normal and if you feel you need medical advice, call your doctor’s surgery.

It is good to know that the UK is one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for the new coronavirus, and doctors can submit samples for immediate testing.

It is also worth bearing in mind that flu itself is dangerous; every year people across the UK die from repercussions from flu; and as we age we become more vulnerable to developing complications.

The good news is that Public Health England has recently reported that while seasonal flu continues to circulate across the UK, activity is decreasing. GP consultations for flu-like illnesses have decreased from 10.3 per 100,000 to 9.0 per 100,000.

Let’s hope incidents of the coronavirus will soon be decreasing too.

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