The current strain of coronavirus comes from a large family of viruses. Previous coronaviruses have caused respiratory infections in humans including severe infections such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The latest coronavirus disease is known as COVID-19. Coronaviruses may also cause illness in animals.
The COVID-19 outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
How does it spread?
COVID-19 is spread by an infected person through small droplets which come from the nose or mouth during a sneeze, cough or while talking. The droplets travel through the air and can be ingested by another person directly. If the droplets fall onto a surface and another person then touches that surface with their hands and fingers, they can then ingest the virus by transferring it to their eyes, nose or mouth by touch.
As a way to control the spread of the virus, scientists, governments and healthcare experts recommended strict social distancing and heightened hygiene methods.
In the UK, the government introduced three measures which are widely known as 'lockdown':
- Staying at home (except for very limited purposes)
- Closure of certain business and venues (including restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas and gyms)
- Stopping gatherings of more than two people
Other social distancing measures, such as staying 2 metres apart from other people and increased hygiene methods, including recommendations for thorough and more frequent hand washing and use of PPE by healthcare and key workers, have been widely adopted..
Who does coronavirus affect?
Anyone can catch COVID-19; however, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 'at-risk' people include older people and those with underlying medical problems, such as cancer patients, and those with diabetes, lung problems, heart problems and high blood pressure.
There has been much speculation about different groups who are at-risk, but under WHO guidance, the above are the only groups who have been listed as at increased risk of catching COVID-19.
The age range for 'older people' has not been specified. In a statement made by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, on 2 April 2020, figures from the European region were revealed showing that more than 95% of deaths recorded to that date had occurred in those older than 60 years. "More than 50% of all deaths were people aged 80 years or older", he added.
Is COVID-19 life threatening?
Most people who contract COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms, particularly at the start of an infection. Serious infections are life threatening.
It is possible for people who have contracted the virus and only have mild symptoms or are in the early stages to unknowingly pass it on to others. Scientists are continuing to examine how the virus is transmitted and whether people with no symptoms can pass the virus to others.
Common main symptoms of COVID-19 include fever (high temperature), new continuous cough, and loss of taste or smell. Some patients also describe feeling extremely fatigued and having aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, eye infections, rash, diarrhoea and skin discolouration on their fingers and toes.
Around 80% of people who contract COVID-19 will not need to be hospitalised and will recover fully over a short period of time – typically around two weeks.
More serious cases (around 1 in 5) will require the patient to be cared for in hospital as a result of respiratory problems (difficulty breathing). In the most serious cases, a ventilator will be required to take over respiratory function for the patient. Sadly, some patients do not recover. The death toll of COVID-19 patients in the UK is widely reported.
Could my long-term health be affected?
Doctors at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital are leading a major research project to help combat the long-term consequences of COVID-19.
Alongside universities and hospitals across Scotland, the study, led by Professor James Chalmers is a trial of a drug that could help treat lung inflammation in coronavirus patients. Professor Chalmers says that he and other respiratory health professionals are seeing incidences of a new condition: post-COVID lung disease. They are concerned that some patients will suffer long-term chronic conditions and will require on-going treatment.
And in the US, the Independent reports, clinicians have seen COVID-19 patients suffering heart inflammation, acute kidney disease, neurological malfunction, blood clots, intestinal damage and liver problems, so the likelihood of long-term health damage is likely to be high.
Reports that early data is showing 14 to 30 percent of intensive care patients in New York and Wuhan losing kidney function and requiring dialysis is particularly concerning. There have also been reports of significant cases of cardiac injury in COVID-19 patients.
However, much current scientific and data reporting of the pandemic and its possible long-term health consequences is speculative and it will not be apparent for some time how the ongoing health of people who contract COVID-19 will be affected.
Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland and coronavirus
Like everyone in the UK, Thompsons has been affected by coronavirus and the lockdown restrictions; however, we are committed to ensuring the people of Scotland continue to have access to justice and their rights are upheld throughout the pandemic.
As always, if you have any legal concerns or you need advice and updates on an ongoing case, Talk to Thompsons today. Call 0800 0891 331 or fill in our online claim form so we can call you back to discuss your circumstances. And for more information on coronavirus compensation claims, our "Can I Make a Claim?" page has lots of information.