What is coronavirus?

What does Coronavirus (COVID-19) 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?


The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccines to people most at risk from coronavirus.  The vaccines are safe and effective and give the best protection against the virus.   The NHS will contact you when it is your turn for vaccination.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)  identified the first 9 priority groups for vaccination which are listed below  (Phase 1).  

1. residents in care homes for older adults and their carers

2. all those 80 years of age and over, and frontline health and social care workers

3. all those 75 years of age and over

4. all those 70 years of age and over, and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals

5. all those 65 years of age and over

6.  all individuals age 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality

7. all those 60 years of age and over

8. all those 55 years of age and over

9. all those 50 years of age and over

Once the first 9 priority groups (Phase 1) have been offered a vaccination, the JCVI have outlined the next stage for vaccination (Phase 2).   In Phase 2,  the offer of vaccination is based on age, starting with the oldest adults first in the following order :

- all those aged 40-49 years

- all those aged 30 - 39 years

- all those aged 18- 29 years

For more information on vaccination, and when it will be your turn, please visit the NHS dedicated Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination website

Cholesterol and COVID-19 Vaccine:

Having a risk factor such as high cholesterol alone does not mean you are more likely to get coronavirus or become seriously ill (particularly if your cholesterol is well controlled).

For people with high cholesterol and/or those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, our specialist recommendations to avoid severe illness are as follows:

- strictly follow social distancing rules and current advice by the Government and NHS

- take lipid lowering and other prescribed medication to control cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes etc

- follow healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle advice including avoiding smoking

- when offered, take up the NHS invitation to attend for a COVID-19 vaccine:

- for those over 40 years, any approved vaccine is recommended

- for those under 40 years, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are currently recommended.

Other treatments

Currently there is ongoing research being carried out by scientists on medicines to help treat people who are seriously ill with  coronavirus.  This includes drugs such as dexamethasone, a steroid which helps to  reduce inflammation.  

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 latest advice for national lockdowns, tier systems 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