YES it’s still safe to go to a Chinese restaurant, order food from a Chinese takeaway and sit in a taxi driven by a “Chinese-looking” driver without catastrophising that you’ve suddenly contracted the deadly coronovirus.

It doesn’t work like that so chill out. And no, I have not made this up! These have been genuine queries that have come from patients this week amidst fears of this fatal virus spreading to the west.

I appreciate that it must be anxiety provoking if you have reason to believe you might be at risk of contracting coronavirus but let me tell you what is even more terrifying? Being a GP on the frontline (one who is 7 months pregnant may I add) and discovering halfway through the consultation, in a confined space, that you are concerned about contracting this condition after eating Chinese food in the East End of Glasgow! This was almost enough to push me into premature labour, so please be considerate and do not put your healthcare professionals or anyone else for that matter at risk. If you are worried, stay home and phone in.

There has been much in the press about Wuhan Novel Coronovirus (WN-CoV) but what exactly is it, are you at risk of contracting it and what do you actually need to know about it?

WN-CoV is a newly emerging infectious diseases threat which initially originated in the city of Wuhan in China at the end of December 2019.

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Coronavirus in itself is not a new virus but it is the name given to a large family of viruses that has caused illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe life threatening conditions like SARS, which was responsible for almost 800 deaths across the world in 2003. There is however a new (novel) strain that has emerged called WN-CoV which is thought to have originated from a seafood market in Wuhan.

Over the last few weeks, since its discovery, WN-CoV has infected more than 6000 people (of which 47 cases have been confirmed outwith China) and has so far been responsible for the deaths of 133 people. No deaths have been reported outside of China and, you’ll be glad to hear, there have been no confirmed cases in the UK thus far and risk remains low.

The typical symptoms of coronavirus mimic the common cold and flu-like symptoms ie. fever, cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. I appreciate why people would be feeling concerned as we are in the depths of flu season in the UK just now and everyone seems to be experiencing these symptoms. However, WN-CoV is only to be suspected if anyone develops these symptoms having recently visited Wuhan or has been in close contact with someone who has just returned from a trip to China. So the above queries, though I was being facetious, in context, can be understood even though still not valid.

Rest assured that both the UK and Chinese governments along with the world health organisation have put the situation on lockdown, limiting travel to and from Wuhan.

There have also been arrangements made for all travellers returning from China to be screened and quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.

We are advising patients concerned about WN-CoV to remain at home at all costs and to phone their GP instead of coming to the practice. If out of hours, call 111. As it can transmit from human to human, it’s important to limit contact with others especially those who are vulnerable ie people who are frail, elderly, babies and on immunosuppressant therapies. Also it is advised to avoid travel by public transport to limit spread of infection.

To be fair, this advice stands true for all flu-like symptoms. The best way to prevent getting it is to be meticulous about self-care.

It’s passed mainly through the air (so from respiratory droplets carried after someone coughs/sneezes) so protect yourself and your environment.

Simple things to remember if you’re symptomatic are:

1. Wash your hands often with soap and water

2. Cover your mouth when coughing/sneezing/blowing your nose

3. Avoid sharing food and drink and also utensils with others

4. Clean surfaces regularly with antibacterial disinfectants

We do not have a cure for this yet because it is such a new condition however watch this space. Stay safe and it’s probably best not to book any holidays to China for now.