This morning’s doctor, Dr. Zoe Williams, is self-isolating among the symptoms of the coronavirus

By Natalie Rahhal, Acting US Health Editor at


About 14 percent of people infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus are hospitalized with severe symptoms such as breathing problems and pneumonia. About 5 percent need intensive care.

But the majority who get the virus only have a cough and may never know they are infected.

So far, around 51,000 people worldwide have recovered from coronavirus – and this includes only the numbers that have been diagnosed.


Officially, the mortality rate has so far been just over three percent. However, experts believe that the actual mortality rate is likely to be between one and two percent. This is because most mild cases have not been picked up by doctors or are reflected in the official numbers – therefore the mortality rate is inflated.


Seasonal flu kills approximately 0.1 percent of people. Covid-19 is between 10 and 20 times more deadly.

But it’s far less dangerous than SARS – the virus that spread across China in 2003 – killing 10 percent of patients.


Yes, but not dramatically. The best estimates assume that every person with Covid-19 passes it on to an average of 2.6 people. For the flu, this number is 1.5.

Can it be spread without symptoms?

Initially, scientists feared that carriers who had no symptoms could pass it on. That is now doubtful.

However, what is likely is that those who have mild symptoms will catch a cold and live their normal lives – which endangers others.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

Again unclear. Initially, scientists said this could take up to two weeks.

However, recent evidence suggests that the incubation period could be up to one month – especially in children.

However, the average is much shorter. A Chinese study found that the average time for symptoms to appear was 5.4 days in adults and 6.5 days in children.


The virus can affect anyone – a study of the first 41 infected people found that two-thirds did not have an existing disease. However, it is most likely for the middle-aged – 78 percent of those infected in China were 30 to 69 years old.

What about the old one?

So far, only 3 percent of those infected have been over 80 years old – but if they get it, they are more vulnerable. Analysis of 72,000 cases in China suggests that the mortality rate for people over 80 is 15 percent. The mortality rate is 8 percent for those over 70 and 4 percent for those over 60.

Who else is vulnerable?

People with other conditions – such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and kidney problems – are likely to suffer serious complications when infected.


Children seem to be at low risk. Less than 1 percent of Chinese cases were younger than ten years old – and when children get the virus, it’s often a mild form.

However, they keep the virus longer than adults.

A study last week found that some children still had the virus in the stool one month after infection.

Is gender important?

Men contract the virus slightly more often than women. It is not clear why this is so.


Anyone who has symptoms – especially if they have traveled to an area at risk – is asked to contact their doctor, local emergency room, or clinic beforehand.

In this way, health care providers can be prepared to wear masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment when they meet the potential patient and escort them to isolated areas of the facility.

You will be tested with a cheek swab sent to one of 12 Public Health England laboratories for analysis. This process takes between 24 and 48 hours. Every positive test is checked in the main PHE laboratory in Colindale.


There is little that doctors can do to fight the virus, but they can treat symptoms like fever and breathing problems. Antivirals and antibiotics are also used, mainly to keep secondary problems at bay.

In the most serious cases, patients are equipped with life support devices.

Several clinical trials are ongoing worldwide for potential coronavirus treatments, including one in Nebraska, where at least 13 patients are in quarantine, including two in biocontainment units.

What about a vaccine?

Although the Wuhan virus only appeared a few weeks ago, 20 teams around the world are already producing vaccines.

The Chinese authorities made the DNA code for the virus available right at the start of the outbreak, so scientists could start working right away.

At least 30 companies and research institutions in the United States are trying to make a vaccine.

Last week, one of these companies, Moderna, shipped its vaccine candidate to the US to signal that the shot is ready to begin clinical trials.

Even so, U.S. health officials say it will likely take more than a year for a vaccine to actually be ready.


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