The coronavirus pandemic has had a bigger impact on British society than any disease in living memory.
Schools and businesses are closed, there’s a sense of panic in the streets and healthcare services are close to breaking point.
So why is the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, so different to other coronaviruses like Sars and Mers that have spread around the world in recent years?
Medical expert Dr Anna Hemming explains that because the disease kills fewer victims, and takes longer to show its symptoms, it’s actually much more dangerous.
Victims have much more time to spread the disease before they realise they have it.
Dr Hemming explains: "Transmission rates are higher for Covid-19, however, SARS has a higher fatality rate at about 10%.
"This is currently 2% for Covid-19. In some countries this will rise, for example, Italy's [fatality rate will be] eight to 10% due to the ageing population.”
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She says this once-in-a-generation event will change the way we live for a long time to come, continuing: “The effect on global society has already been demonstrated and is huge."
Dr Hemming explains that while many have compared the virus to flu, there are only superficial similarities.
"In some ways, Covid-19 is similar to flu in that it spreads, causes people to feel unwell and cannot be easily treated", she said.
"However it has some very different features. Typically, a virus takes five days to cause symptoms."
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"Covid-19 takes up to 14 days for an infected person to develop symptoms."
More importantly, Covid-19 causes many more people to require hospital treatment than seasonal flu does, which is why healthcare systems around the world are overstretched.
Dr Hemming says the hospitalisation rate for seasonal flu is "around 2%", whereas for COVID-19 it’s more like 19%.
Life can’t return to normal until there’s a vaccination available, and until a reliable test is produced which can determine who has already had the disease, many vital medical staff are being kept on the sidelines.
Dr Hemming says: "Scientists worldwide are working really hard to create a vaccination, as well as antibody testing kits which we understand are in their final stages before launching."
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