Coronavirus: How to avoid catching it - and whether you can touch handrails

    The risk to the UK public posed by the new coronavirus has been raised from low to moderate by chief medical officers, although they stress the risk to individuals remains low.

    Here's how you can protect yourself and others from getting the disease... 

    Wash your hands

    Washing your hands frequently with soap and water - or a hand sanitiser gel as an alternative - will remove viruses and bacteria from your hands.

    "The best thing people can do is make sure they can wash their hands for 20 seconds or more... with soap and hot water," Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.

    He recommends telling children to wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday.

    England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, also urged the public not to touch their faces after touching bus or train handrails.

    He said there is "some risk of transmission" from touching handrails and hard surfaces for up to 72 hours.

    "Just touching it will not give you the virus: it is if you touch it and then touch your face, having not washed your hands between them," he said.

    "So, if you go on to the Tube and touch the rail, that's fine, but just be aware of what you do with your hands - don't touch your face. Wash your hands, and then you can do what you like."

    Prof Whitty said the droplets that lead to the COVID-19 infection would be "largely gone" within 48 hours in most cases.

    Don't cough or sneeze into your hands

    If you have a virus and you sneeze or cough into your hands, the droplets in your sneeze or cough then contaminate your hands, and you will then contaminate objects or people that you touch.

    You are advised to instead cover your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve, or to cough or sneeze into a flexed elbow.

    Tissues should be discarded immediately into a closed bin and hands cleaned with soap and water or a hand sanitiser gel.

    Keep your distance

    Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends maintaining at least one metre (three feet) between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.

    If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus if an infected person coughs or sneezes.

    Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

    Your hands may touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus.

    If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.

    Stay home if you feel unwell

    If you experience any symptoms such as a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. The WHO advises to follow the directions of your local health authority.

    Take care with animals or animal products when visiting markets

    The WHO recommends regular hand washing with soap and water after touching animals and animal products when visiting markets, as well as to avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.

    They also say to avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products and to avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids.

    Avoiding consumption of raw or undercooked animal products is also recommended, as well as following good food safety practices.

    However, at present, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with coronavirus.

    Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets to protect against common bacteria.

    Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19

    To help protect yourself and helping prevent the spread of coronavirus, follow advice given by your local healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or employer.

    Does it matter where you sit on an aeroplane?

    Howard Weiss, a professor of biology and mathematics at Penn State University in the US, has previously led a team to study the behaviour of passengers on flights.

    His 2018 study suggested the safest place to sit on a flight was a window seat, as - if the passenger stayed put - this led to far fewer close encounters with other people than for those in other seats.

    However, his team's work also revealed all passengers had a fairly low probability of getting infected with an illness.

    Professor Weiss told National Geographic: "If you're seated in an aisle seat, certainly there will be quite a few people moving past you, but they'll be moving quickly.

    "In aggregate, what we show is there's quite a low probability of transmission to any particular passenger."

    He also highlighted how it is not yet known how coronavirus is spread.

    What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

    The disease caused by coronavirus has now been named COVID-19.

    Its main symptoms are:

    • A cough
    • A high temperature
    • Shortness of breath

    There is not yet a specific treatment for COVID-19, although scientists are working on a vaccine.

    Article courtesy of Sky News

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