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Dr Rebecca Mitchell from the Bourne Galletly practice answers questions about coronavirus

With coronavirus announced to be a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation on Wednesday, we asked Dr Rebecca Mitchell from the Bourne Galletly Medical Practice questions that readers are asking.

It comes at a time when UK cases are up to 596 and 10 people have died.

Please note that this advice was published on Thursday, March 12 and some new advice has since been issued for people to stay at home if they have mild cold-like symptoms.

Dr Rebecca Mitchell
Dr Rebecca Mitchell

If a person has tested negative straight after returning from Italy, could they develop symptoms later and test positive?

There is limited data on Covid-19 because it is so new. But teams of experts are working around the clock to publish their findings on what we know so far.

Signs and symptoms may appear any time from two to 14 days after exposure, with the average ‘incubation period’ (time from infection to displaying symptoms) being five days. The test detects the genetic material - or RNA - of the virus which we think is shed very early on in people’s infection, so it is seen as a reliable way of detecting the virus. However anyone with symptoms who has travelled from a high risk area must visit 111.nhs.uk/covid-19 or phone 111. Always call 999 in an emergency. The swab is only accurate at the time; it is possible to catch the virus at a later point.

The Coronavirus response is being stepped up.
The Coronavirus response is being stepped up.

I read that children can carry Covid-19 without showing symptoms. Is this true?

The World Health Organisation report that Covid-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the mouth or nose which are spread when a person with Covid-19 coughs or exhales. Droplets can land on objects and surfaces which other people can touch and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also pass Covid-19 droplets directly to another person which is why it is important to stay more than one metre away from a person who is unwell.

The risk of catching Covid-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, some people only experience mild symptoms, especially in the early stage of the disease.

Is it safe to go to the theatre or cinema?

Currently it is safe to continue as normal unless you have returned from a high risk area or have had a coronavirus contact.

Some of our patients with serious, chronic respiratory disease have been advised by their specialist hospital teams to self isolate regardless of contacts. Papworth hospital has advised patients with cystic fibrosis to self isolate, for example.


As a doctor, what changes have you made to your life because of Covid -19?

We are limiting consultations to 10 minutes where possible as we know that transmission is most likely after 15 minutes at less than a metre distance with someone.

We are asking all patients about potential contacts and travel and asking patients to contact 111 rather than come here if they are high risk.

Personally, we have not made any other changes to our lifestyles. We wash our hands after seeing patients and our practice is cleaned daily.

I feel like I’m getting a cold. What should I do?

Visit 111.nhs.uk/covid-19 for advice. Currently the guidance is to stay at home for seven days if you have a high temperature or continuous cough. However advice is changing daily. Read the NHS advice for staying at home.

Protect yourself and others: NHS guidance for the public - click here


Is it OK to visit my elderly mother in a care home?

It would be sensible to avoid high risk areas, such as care homes, if you have travelled from a high risk area or have had a Covid-19 contact. It is very difficult to answer this question because advice is changing daily. Be sure to comply with local policies. There is no current advice to avoid activities unless you are high risk.

Currently the advice from the NHS is that you should self isolate even if you do not have symptoms if you have travelled from Iran, Italy, certain zones in South Korea and China’s Hubei province. There is a list of countries considered ‘high risk’ on 111.nhs.uk/covid-19 which you can check.

If you have returned from one of these areas and have symptoms of a respiratory illness (shortness of breath, cough or fever, however mild) you should call 111 for advice after completing their online questionnaire.

Bourne Galletly Medical Practice logo
Bourne Galletly Medical Practice logo

How safe are we? How does the threat compare with other illnesses such as diabetes, cancer or seasonal ‘flu?

In the UK there have been (as of Thursday morning) 465 cases of Covid-19 and sadly eight deaths. Every day 450 in the UK die of cancer, 205 people in the UK die each day with diabetes. Influenza kills 17,000 people per year in England.

Covid-19 is new and therefore causing concern and we understand your anxieties. Generally it is a mild illness, however. One in five people who catch it need hospital care.

Keep informed by visiting NHS websites, ensure you wash your hands regularly and practice good respiratory hygiene. Wearing masks and taking antibiotics does not keep you safe.

Click here to read more of the latest news.

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