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Coronavirus | Covid-19 | What is Coronavirus |Here's what we know about it 1
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Basic Facts

What is the 2019 novel coronavirus?

The novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has since been identified in most of China as well as in dozens of countries on six continents including Ireland. 

Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that cause a spectrum of diseases ranging from the common cold to severe life-threatening pneumonia.  They’re named for the spike proteins on the surface of the virus that make the virus look like a crown or star. There are seven coronaviruses known to infect humans. 

The emergence of two of these coronaviruses, SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012, occurred as a result of animal-to-human, or zoonotic, transmission events. The same is likely true for the new coronavirus.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms or mild cold symptoms to people being severely sick, some recovering and developing into more serious events.

Symptoms may include fever, cough and sore throat. In some patients, these symptoms can worsen into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Persons who are elderly, immunocompromised, or if have other comorbidities, such as heart disease, liver disease, are at higher risk of developing severe pneumonia and more adverse events. Symptoms of the coronavirus may appear in as few as two days or up to 14 days after exposure.

What do I do if I feel sick?

In the event that you have symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing AND a history of travel from an area where there is an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 or contact with a person with coronavirus, please take the following steps to prevent spread of the disease: 

  • Seek medical attention immediately as directed by the Department of Health
  • Phone your GP, or emergency department – if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999
  • In a any medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999
  • Call ahead whenever possible before going to a doctors surgery or hospital.
  • Separate the individual from others while arrangements are being made for transport to appropriate medical care.
  • Contact your HSE confidential freephone helpline on 1850 24 1850
  • Phone your GP, or emergency department – if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999

How does it spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person to person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. The principal mode of transmission is still thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets that travel up to six feet in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. This transmission is similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.



Close contact with an infectious person, such as shaking hands, or touching a doorknob, tabletop or other surfaces touched by an infectious person, and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth can also transmit the virus. I It is not yet known how long the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces, but based on data from other coronaviruses, such as SARS, it may be for up to two days at room temperatures.


Risk | Testing | Treatment 

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What does “Close Contact” mean?

This is only a guide but close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days and you do not have symptoms, you need to restrict your movements. You only need to phone your GP if you have symptoms of coronavirus. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. 

Symptoms of coronavirus

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear.

Look out for one, some or all of the main symptoms:

Other symptoms are fatigue, headaches, sore throat, aches and pains.

If you develop symptoms you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.

When you may need to be tested for coronavirus

If you develop symptoms you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP. The people in your household need to restrict their movements.

  • Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
  • The GP will assess you over the phone.
  • If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test. 
  • HSELive is an information line only and can’t order coronavirus tests.

How Coronavirus is Spread

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets.

You could get the virus if you:

  • come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
  • touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on

As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.

The virus may only survive a few hours if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.

Packages from affected countries

You cannot get coronavirus from packages or food that has come from China or elsewhere. There is no evidence that animals or animal products legally imported into the EU are a health risk due to coronavirus.

Face masks

Using masks is unlikely to be of any benefit if you are not sick. Sick people will be advised by their doctor when to use a mask.  Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Children and coronavirus

Parents are understandably concerned. But it’s important to keep in mind that comparatively few children have tested positive for the virus, and adverse events in children are very rare. 

Encourage your child to wash their hands regularly and properly and make it fun by getting young children to sing a song while they wash their hands. Read more advice on how to prevent your child from catching or spreading viral infections.

Treatment for coronavirus

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus. But many of the symptoms of the virus can be treated. 

Drink plenty of water. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help with symptoms such as pain or fever. Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first-line treatment for most people. Before taking any medication you should read the full package leaflet that comes with your medicine. You should also follow any advice a healthcare professional gives you.

If you get the virus, your healthcare professional will advise treatment based on your symptoms.

Antibiotics do not work against coronavirus or any viruses. They only work against bacterial infections.

Supportive treatments, like oxygen therapy, can be given while your own body fights the virus. Life support can be used in extreme cases.


There is currently no vaccine to treat or protect against coronavirus.   The flu vaccine does not protect against coronavirus.  On a positive note, with technological advances and greater commitment from governments around the world to fund research on emerging diseases and share their research, scientists were able to spring into action fast 

At-Risk groups and coronavirus

oronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus. We are still learning how it works. 

There are some groups of people who may be more at risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. But we do not think these groups have a higher risk of catching coronavirus. This is similar to other infections such as flu.

You are more at risk of serious illness if you catch coronavirus and you:

  • are 60 years of age and over – people over 75 are particularly vulnerable
  • have a long-term medical condition – for example, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure
  • have a weak immune system (immunosuppressed)

Read More About At Risk Groups

Pets and coronavirus

There is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs can catch or spread coronavirus.

Delay phase

Ireland has local transmission of coronavirus. We are in the delay phase. We are still looking for cases.

These are the people who are being tested at the moment:

  • people at higher risk because of travel or close contact with a case
  • people with severe illness in hospital

We are now testing a sample of people with symptoms in the community. GPs and hospital doctors test patients that they feel require it.

We are monitoring the global situation closely, actively seeking people who may have COVID-19 so that we can:

  • put public health measures in place to prevent spread
  • advise people on how to protect themselves
  • prepare the health services for the care of cases


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What should I do to protect myself against the virus?

This is a rapidly evolving and dynamic situation worldwide. Every individual is encouraged to stay informed about the changing travel advisories and restrictions, guidelines about returning to work/school after traveling abroad, as well as simple ways to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases described below. Most importantly, do not come to work, college or school if you are sick.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. 

  • Wash your hands often and properly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds Wash your hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home and do not travel or go to work or school when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the bin. Then wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • The HSE does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Follow the up-to-date travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs

Wash your hands: 

  • after coughing or sneezing
  • after toilet use
  • before eating
  • before and after preparing food
  • if you are in contact with a sick person, especially those with respiratory symptoms
  • if your hands are dirty if you have handled animals or animal waste

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website



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Please see the Department of Health guidance.  if you have been to a country where there is a spread of the virus.  

Arriving to Ireland from another country

If you do not have symptoms of coronavirus

You will need to restrict your movements for 14 days if you return to Ireland from any other country. You do not need to restrict your movements if you return to the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland.

Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.

Travelling to another country from Ireland

Avoid all non-essential travel to other countries until 29 March.

Get up-to-date travel information from the Department of Foreign Affairs on countries and regions affected by coronavirus.

Travel to areas with widespread local transmission

If you travel to an area with widespread local transmission of coronavirus, the risk of catching the virus is high. The World Health Organisation (WHO) publish daily information on rates of local transmission.

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