By Dr Bilal Shirazi | 24 Jan 2020

Coronavirus - The Facts

As concern spreads globally about the virus outbreak which originated in Wuhan, China, our latest blog posts shares some key facts to know about the virus and how to prevent it.


Coronavirus – The Facts

As concern spreads globally about the virus outbreak which originated in Wuhan, China, our latest blog posts shares some key facts to know about the virus and how to prevent it. Read our blog below and download our handy infographic here for more information. 

For more information you can also see our Member FAQ here and read a detailed briefing from our travel assistance partner Assist America here

What is the virus?

The virus, known as COVID-19, is part of the coronavirus family which includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) as well as the common cold. The virus is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans.

Where is it?

The virus originated in a seafood marked in Wuhan, although there are now cases reported in more than 150 territories worldwide and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an official pandemic. 

Many countries now have travel restrictions and quarantine procedures in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include a cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath. In more severe cases it can lead to pneumonia and respiratory tract conditions.

How bad is it?

As of 16 March 2020 there have been more than 160,000 cases worldwide and more than 6000 deaths. The virus is believed to be milder than SARS and for most people the symptoms are mild and will gradually subside, although you are advised to seek treatment early. The majority of deaths have been amongst the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions who are at heightened risk from respiratory tract diseases. 

How do I prevent it?

It has been confirmed that the virus can be transferred by human contact, such as via a handshake. The WHO therefore advises social distancing, including maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Crucially good personal hygiene and regular hand washing is advised. This means washing your hands thoroughly – 20 seconds is recommended.  You may also wish to carry hand sanitiser with you in case you are unable to frequently wash your hands. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth wherever possible.

Finally you should practice good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

What does the WHO say?

On the 11 March the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared a pandemic of COVID-19.

The WHO says it is prudent for travellers who are sick to delay or avoid travel to affected areas, in particular for elderly travellers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions.

Travellers returning from affected areas should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days and follow national protocols, as some countries may require returning travellers to enter quarantine.

Who is at risk?

The elderly or those with underlying medical conditions are at a more heightened risk and should take extra precautions.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t panic. Seek medical attention and remember to share your travel history with your health care provider. 

It is best to call in advance to alert them to your symptoms rather than visit in person to help prevent further spread of the disease. They can then advise further on whether you need to seek medical treatment. Please refer to your local health authorities for more information about the advice in your area. 

If you are symptomatic, where possible try to isolate yourself from family members, particularly the vulnerable (e.g. elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions).

By Dr Bilal Shirazi

Dr. Bilal has more than 17 years of experience working across clinical medicine and the health insurance sector, with particular expertise in health insurance administration and operations. In addition to his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS), he has an MBA and is an Associate Member of the Life Office Management Association (LOMA).  

See Dr Bilal Shirazi's profile