What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. But what does this mean for those living with cholesterol or lipid conditions?

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Here you can find out what coronavirus is, the symptoms to look out for, and the steps you can take to help protect yourself and others. 

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The term coronavirus actually refers to a group of viruses that can cause many different conditions – including the common cold. It’s important to note, however, that the current outbreak is not just a cold.

What are the symptoms?

  •  A new, continuous cough.
  •  Fever (high temperature).
  •  A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. 

You may not necessarily have all of these symptoms, so if you’re unsure then it’s best to be cautious and follow self-isolation guidance set out by the government.

Anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus can get a free test to check if they have the virus.  This is known as the "antigen" or "swab" test

Use the NHS 111 online service to check your symptoms. 

What should I do if I have symptoms I’m concerned about?

Most people with coronavirus symptoms are able to manage at home. If you’re worried that your symptoms are becoming much worse, or you’re struggling to cope, then use the NHS 111 online service or call  111 – do not go to your GP surgery, a pharmacy or hospital in person. The 111 staff will advise on the next steps. 

Our Cholesterol Helpline is running as usual to support you and the NHS. Please note that we are not able to diagnose coronavirus so please refer to Government and NHS guidance if you think you may have coronavirus symptoms. We may have more calls than usual so if you can’t get through feel free to email us at ask@heartuk.org.uk and we'll get back to you.

How do I avoid catching or spreading coronavirus (COVID-19)?

As coronavirus is a new illness, there is no information as to exactly how it’s spread. Similar viruses spread in cough droplets, so the advice currently includes:

  • Stay at home. 
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, or using alcohol gel if none is available.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue, or use your elbow, when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.

As well as taking care of your own health, at times like these it's important to consider others too. Most people with coronavirus will not be badly affected in the long term as far as current science is suggesting. However, if you pass the virus on to a more vulnerable person the situation could be very different. This includes the elderly, pregnant women and people with existing health conditions.

See who is at higher risk, and follow the guidelines above to protect yourself and others. 

Have a look at these coronavirus myth busters from the World Health Organisation.


What treatment is available?

Currently there is much research being carried out by scientists on medicines to help treat people who have coronavirus and to find a vaccine to protect us against it.

This includes drugs such as dexamethasone, a steroid which can reduce inflammation, and remdesivir, an antiviral drug originally developed to treat Ebola.

The simple steps you can take to help look after yourself are the same as with most illnesses. These are:

  • Stay hydrated – water is best.
  • Try to continue eating as normally as possible.
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Treat symptoms like fever with over the counter medicines like paracetamol.

See the Government's advice on easing restrictions and what you can and can't do.

See the advice

There is official information from the NHS and the Government covering:


An overview of coronavirus

The Government response

Travel advice

Stay at home guidance