COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus. 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. The current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019.
Symptoms of coronavirus
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear.
The most common symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
- shortness of breath
- breathing difficulties
- fever (high temperature)
If you have these symptoms and have been to a place where there is spread of coronavirus, read this advice.
When you may need to call a doctor
For most people who have these symptoms now, it is more likely to be an infection that is not coronavirus.
You only need to phone a doctor if you have symptoms and any of the following apply to you:
- they are the type of symptoms you would usually contact a GP about
- you have travelled from an affected area
- you are a close contact of a confirmed case in Ireland – if you are, the Department of Public Health will contact you
This is only a guide but close contact can mean:
- spending more than 15 minutes face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
- living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person
Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should:
- isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone
- phone their GP, or emergency department
- in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999
When you may need to be tested for coronavirus
You will need to be tested for coronavirus if you have symptoms and have in the last 14 days been:
- in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus
- to a place where there is spread of coronavirus
Your doctor may also suggest you are tested for coronavirus if you have a severe lung infection.
If your doctor thinks that you need a test for coronavirus, they will tell you where the test will be done. They will also tell you when to expect your results.
Read this advice if you’ve been to a place with spread of coronavirus.
Risk of catching coronavirus in Ireland
There are confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ireland.
The risk of catching coronavirus in Ireland is still low to moderate. This may change.
Follow the advice on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.
If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus, a public health doctor will tell you this.
How coronavirus is spread
Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets.
You could get the virus if you:
- come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
- touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on
As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.
The virus may only survive a few hours if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.
Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.
Packages from affected countries
You cannot get coronavirus from packages or food that has come from China or elsewhere.
There is no evidence that animals or animal products legally imported into the EU are a health risk due to coronavirus.
Children and coronavirus
Follow this advice if your child has recently travelled to a place with a spread of coronavirus.
Encourage your child to wash their hands regularly and properly.
Read more advice on how to prevent your child from catching or spreading viral infections.
Treatment for coronavirus
There is no specific treatment for coronavirus. But many of the symptoms of the virus can be treated.
Supportive treatments, like oxygen therapy, can be given while your own body fights the virus. Life support can be used in extreme cases.
If you get the virus, your healthcare professional will advise treatment based on your symptoms.
Antibiotics do not work against coronavirus or any viruses. They only work against bacterial infections.
There is currently no vaccine to treat or protect against coronavirus.
The flu vaccine does not protect against coronavirus.
At-risk groups and coronavirus
We do not know for sure which groups are most at risk of complications if they catch coronavirus.
But it is likely you are more at risk if you catch coronavirus and:
- are 60 years of age and over
- have a long-term medical condition – for example, heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer
- pregnant women
You should follow the advice on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus and other infections like flu.
Pets and coronavirus
There is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs can catch or spread coronavirus.
Avoid all non-essential travel
Follow the up-to-date travel information from the Department of Foreign Affairs for travel advice on countries and regions affected by coronavirus.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised people to avoid all non-essential travel overseas at least until March 29. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all cruise ship travel.
There is a high risk of getting coronavirus if you travel to a place where there is spread of the virus.
COVID-19 updates – how the health service is responding to the global spread of coronavirus
Department of Foreign Affairs – updated travel information and advice
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre – information for health professionals
WHO – Advice for Public