What is Coronavirus and How Might It Affect Me?

The current coronavirus outbreak, or Covid-19 as it’s officially known, was first detected in China in December 2019 but has since spread to many countries including Ireland.

Coronavirus is a group of infectious diseases that range from a common cold to a much more serious illness that affects your lungs and breathing. It makes people unwell, and in some cases has led to serious illness and death.

Coronavirus has been in the news a lot recently because there have been cases in lots of different places around the world, including in Ireland, which can make it seem quite scary. But you can take simple steps like washing your hands and keeping a stock of tissues for coughs and sneezes that can really help prevent you from catching any kind of virus.

For the most up to date situation in the Ireland, take a look at the Irish Government website which is updated daily.

Who is most at risk of coronavirus?

Like many other flu-like viruses, coronavirus will have more severe symptoms in people who already have weakened immune systems, in older people and people who have long-term health conditions like cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease.

What can I do to protect myself against coronavirus?

Be hygienic!

Make sure to wash your hands regularly – especially after going to the toilet, after coughing or sneezing, and before eating food. It’s also good practice to make sure you don’t come too close in contact with anyone who may be carrying an infectious disease like a cold or flu.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • high temperature or fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath.

These symptoms don’t always mean you have coronavirus though. The symptoms are similar to many other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

What do I do if I have coronavirus symptoms? 

You should stay at home for 7 days if you have either:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough.

Staying at home and separating yourself from other people, is also known as self-isolating. This will help to protect others in your community while you are infectious.

If you have any symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose, blocked nose, cough or wheezing, you should behave as if you have the virus. Self-isolate to help stop the spread of this disease; this means staying at home and separating yourself from other people. The people in your household will need to do the same.

You should call your GP to be assessed for a test if you have a fever (high temperature – 38 degrees Celsius or above) or chills and one of the following symptoms:

  • a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
  • shortness of breath

If you are in one of the priority groups and they think that you need to be tested, they will arrange a test for you.

After 7 days, if you no longer have a high temperature, you can return to your normal routine. If you still have a high temperature, stay at home until your temperature returns to normal.

What do I do if I live with someone with coronavirus symptoms? 

If you live with someone who has coronavirus, a new cough or a fever, you should stay at home for 14 days (the 14 days starts from the day the person became ill). Staying at home and separating yourself from other people, is also known as self-isolating.

This helps to reduce the chances of you spreading coronavirus to others.

After 14 days, you and anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine.

But, if you or anyone in your home gets symptoms, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms start. Even if it means you’re at home for longer than 14 days.

Information & support for young carers

If you provide regular support to a vulnerable friend or family member, you will want to do what you can to protect your own health and of the friend or family member you look after during the coronavirus outbreak.

Like everyone, family carers and people being cared for should familiarise themselves with the public health advice on how to protect themselves from infection. As the situation is changing quickly, the guidance may also change, so carers should therefore check regularly to make sure they are following the latest guidance on the HSE Website.

Young carers who do not already have an Emergency Care Plan in place may also want to talk with family and friends about who could take over their caring role if they become ill or need to self-isolate – particularly while social work services are under additional pressure during the coronavirus outbreak. It will also be important to make sure you have key information about the person you care for easily available – so that anyone taking over care has all the information they need.

Where carers and family and friends are unable to provide essential care for someone, they should contact their Local Health Office and speak with a Public Health Nurse.

More information

If you do not have symptoms and are looking for general information, you can call HSELive on 1850 241850.

The helpline is open:

  • 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday
  • 10am – 5pm on Saturday and Sunday

The HSE also has a handy website that has the answers to a lot of common questions.

If you require any emotional support or can’t find the information you are looking for, you can call Family Carers Ireland’s Young Carer Project on 057 9370208.