How to stay calm amid the coronavirus outbreak

Locals carried on with Valentine's Day celebrations amid coronavirus fears in Hong Kong. (Getty Images)

Fears of the coronavirus may be causing you sleepless nights.

Early research suggests the infection is mild in four out of five cases, with the vast majority of patients developing a cough, fever and slight breathlessness.

Nevertheless, officials have stressed we all have a part to play in stemming the spread of the outbreak.

By warding off the infection ourselves, we help protect vulnerable individuals, namely the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.

While there is no denying the infection can be life-threatening, experts stress panicking is futile.

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A man is pictured wearing a face mask in Wellington on 14 February. (Getty Images)

How worried should we be about the coronavirus?

The coronavirus can be serious, with a small few succumbing to pneumonia.

The exact death rate is up in the air, with estimates previously ranging from 1% up to 18%.

While it may sound alarming, experts stress most cases are mild.

“During an evolving outbreak, there will be many more people with mild symptoms, not requiring any medical intervention,” Dr Bharat Pankhania from the University of Exeter previously said.

Professor Martin Hibberd, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, noted bird flu’s death rate was initially pegged “much higher than the now more established less than 0.1% [fatality] rate overall”.

Much of the data is coming from hospitals, where patients are severe by definition.

In Hubei province, the previous epicentre of the outbreak, officials changed how they define a diagnosis - creating the illusion numbers suddenly spiked.

Nevertheless, the coronavirus has been declared a “global emergency”, one of six since the concept was introduced in 2005.

How to stay calm amid the coronavirus outbreak

“While the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, and it appears to be everywhere, it’s important to remain calm,” Dr Daniel Atkinson, clinical lead at Treated.com, told Yahoo UK.

“There are a number of different things you can do to stay calm during this fraught period.

“If you’re feeling panicked by the coverage of the virus, limit the amount of time you spend reading about the topic.

“It is easy to feel consumed by a major topic so get the news you need, breathe and focus on something else.”

While keeping up with current affairs is important, Dr Meg Arroll - chartered psychologist for Healthspan - recommends switching off alerts and only checking updates at set times of the day.

“Focus on your circle of influence, in other words, control your ‘controllables’,” she told Yahoo UK.

“You can’t control the outbreak of a virus, but you can control how much you check the news and your response to the story.”

Incoming news of the coronavirus can feel all consuming.

“If you’re feeling very anxious, practice some self-care with whatever works for you – seeing friends, going for a walk, having a long bath – to reset an anxious mind,” said Dr Arroll.

While on a global scale it may feel like we can do little to help, every individual plays a part in combating the spread of infection.

“Focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot to keep safe,” Dr Liz Ritchie, psychotherapist at St Andrew’s Healthcare, told Yahoo UK.

“Be mindful of good sanitation and avoid international travel if advised to do so.”

Try and also keep some perspective.

“Yes the virus is a real threat, but panicking can only serve to fuel unhelpful thoughts and feelings,” said Dr Ritchie.

“Scientific work is continually being done to learn more and stay ahead of the virus.”

An employee at the Beijing Chaoyang An'yuan Hospital disposes of medical waste on 14 February. (Getty Images)

What is the coronavirus?

The coronavirus is one of seven strains of a virus class that are known to infect humans.

Others range from the mild common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak, which killed 774 people during its 2002/3 outbreak.

Most of the people who initially became unwell worked at, or visited, a seafood and live animal market in the Chinese city Wuhan at the end of 2019.

The coronavirus mainly spreads face-to-face via infected droplets that have been coughed or sneezed out. There is also evidence it may be transmitted in faeces and urine.

Coronaviruses as a class have no specific treatment, with most people’s immune system naturally fighting the infection off.

“Paracetamol for fever and muscle pain is probably being given unless the patient deteriorates,” said Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia.

If pneumonia occurs, lungs struggle to draw in air, resulting in reduced oxygen in the bloodstream.

These patients require “supportive” care, like ventilation, in hospital while their immune system gets to work.

To prevent infection, the NHS recommends regular hand washing and social distancing.