Coronaviruses are a family of viruses common across the world in animals and humans; certain types cause illnesses in people. For example, some coronaviruses cause the common cold.
COVID-19 is the illness seen in people infected with a new strain of coronavirus not previously seen in humans. On 31 December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, which was later classified as a new disease: COVID-19.
On 30 January 2020, WHO declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a (dry) cough, a high temperature (persistently higher than 37.5 or, noticeably higher than what is normal for you) and, in severe cases, shortness of breath.
COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively because it is a new virus in humans, and so immunity has not developed in the community and nor is there yet a preventative vaccine for the disease. Whilst current thinking assumes that the UK will be affected significantly by this outbreak, it remains the case that 80% of those who contract it will have few, if any symptoms (i.e. at most, a mild illness). The majority of people who do develop symptoms will have an illness that will be similar to seasonal flu, and will be self-limiting.
A minority of people who contract the virus develop respiratory (breathing) complications, primarily pneumonia. This may be severe enough for hospital care. Risk is increased in the elderly (especially those over 80) and those with underlying health conditions (in the same way as seasonal flu poses additional risk to these groups).
Illness is less common and usually less severe in younger adults and children. Overall illness seems rarer in people under 20 years of age. So far, there has been no obvious sign that pregnant women are more likely to be seriously affected.
Given that the data is still emerging, the UK and Scottish Governments remain uncertain of the impact of an outbreak on businesses and organisations like the Conservatoire. One projection cites the possibility that up to one fifth of employees or students may be absent from work or study during peak weeks. This may vary for individual businesses. The Conservatoire is currently engaged in planning contingencies particular to our own context, should this be the case in our community.
As new information/data and infection trends in different countries and continents develop, the UK and Scottish Governments will be revising their advice to best contain, delay and mitigate the risk to the general population.
Work is in hand to contain the spread of the virus. This includes extensive guidance provided to individuals returning from areas where there are cases being reported, and encouraging self-isolation as the primary means to contain the spread of the disease. Given that there is currently neither a vaccine against COVID-19 nor any specific, proven, antiviral medication, most treatment will therefore be towards managing symptoms and providing support to patients with complications.
As more people recover from the virus, we learn more about its duration and effects. In the vast majority of cases symptoms (where there are any) are mild and last a number of days. In more complicated cases (for example where pneumonia develops), recovery takes longer.
The majority of people with COVID-19 have recovered without the need for any specific treatment, as is the case for the common cold or seasonal flu – and we expect that the vast majority of cases will best be managed at home, again as with seasonal colds and flu.