Despite the coronavirus making its way into the UK after sweeping across the globe and infecting nearly 10,000 people, the risk of individuals in Britain getting the illness remains low, says the NHS. The people most at risk in the UK are those who have recently travelled to China.
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Two Chinese nationals in the UK have contracted the virus and are being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle after becoming unwell in York.
A plane carrying 83 Britons and 27 others also landed in the UK on Friday from Wuhan, the Chinese city in the Hubei province where the virus originated.
The passengers are being taken to a hospital in the Wirral, Merseyside, and they will remain in quarantine for 14 days.
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Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, said: “Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with the confirmed cases.
“The two cases were staying in York when they became unwell.
“Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed cases.
“This tried and tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public.”
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The NHS has issued advice for people who have returned from Wuhan and other parts of China, where 213 people have died as a result of the coronavirus.
The NHS website states: “If you have returned from Wuhan or the Hubei Province in the last 14 days stay indoors and avoid contact with other people and call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to the city.
“If you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, continue to follow this advice. Do not leave your house without getting advice from a doctor.”
The same advice applies to those who have returned from other areas of China – but not Hong Kong or Macao – in the last 14 days, and get a cough or fever, or feel short of breath.
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Wearing a face mask can provide some protective benefits but research on this is mixed.
A key measure you can take to protect yourself, the World Health Organization (WHO) says, is to wash your hands with soap when they are visibly dirty.
The WHO also recommends cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand rub.
Other tips include covering your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.
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The WHO stated: “If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider;
“When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
“The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided.
“Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.”
The UK Chief Medical Officer has raised the risk to the public from low to moderate, but the risk to individuals is low.
Professor Chris Whitty said: “We can confirm that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.
“The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.”
“We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.”