Coronavirus continues to cast a shadow over the UK, with twelve more people in England and one in Scotland testing positive for the virus as of yesterday. As the cases rise, there are still a number of critical gaps in knowledge, such as the rate at which the virus spreads. One area gaining increasing attention among experts is whether the virus could return every year, like the common cold.
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Professor John Oxford, a virologist from Queen Mary University of London, has suggested the likelihood of the virus returning every winter is probable.
Professor Oxford bases his prediction on patterns of previous forms of coronavirus, which have also infected people in waves.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Professor Oxford warned it had “enough characteristics” similar to the viruses we’ve known about for the last 50 years for it to eventually “settle down and become seasonal”.
He continued: “It’s a question of crystal ball gazing but if you look at other members of the coronavirus family, that are respiratory viruses and we’ve known about them for the last 50 years or more, they’re seasonal.”
“They’re just like the common cold, there’s probably a few thousand people infected with them at the moment in England.
“Whether Covid-19 will fit into that pattern or not, we will just have to wait and see but my guess is it will.”
While the seasonal forecast may seem gloomy, it could afford researchers precious time to examine the virus and find a better cure for it, said Professor Oxford.
“My hope is that this virus will be seasonal and that the coming spring and summer may help us in our battle against the virus and it may have a very significant effect,” he said.
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Coronavirus (COVID-19) – what we know so far
According to the World Health Ogranization (WHO), coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people, explains WHO.
As the health body notes, detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV, which broke out in 2003, was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.
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What are the warning signs?
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A cough
- A high temperature
- Shortness of breath
As the NHS explains, these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.
“The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu,” says the health body.
You should still take measures to reduce your risk of catching and spreading the virus, however.
The NHS recommends the following:
- 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
- Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean to reduce the risk, warns the health site.
What do I do if I think I have it?
As the health notes, if there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).
This means you should:
- Stay at home
- Not go to work, school or public places
- Not use public transport or taxis
- Ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
- Try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food
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