Updated Wuhan novel coronavirus advice

13 February 2020

First publishes 29 January 2020.

Public Health England (PHE), which has responsibility in England for safeguarding public health, have advised that, based on the available evidence, the current risk to the UK is ‘moderate.’

Information about Wuhan novel coronavirus

PHE are working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international partners to keep the situation under constant review and have issued advice to the NHS.

For anyone concerned about the virus, we have compiled the below FAQs. These will be regularly reviewed and updated.

PHE have also published a more detailed Q&A which is available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Wuhan novel coronavirus?

Wuhan novel coronavirus is a contagious virus that causes respiratory infections. The virus originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China but cases have now been confirmed in all provinces of China and a small number abroad, including Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, the USA, Canada, France, Germany and the UK. 

Two patients in England, who are members of the same family, have tested positive for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and tried and tested infection control procedures are being used to prevent further spread of the virus.

Public Health England has assessed the current risk to the UK as moderate and are working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international partners constantly to review the situation.


Common symptoms of Wuhan novel coronavirus include fever, coughing, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.

What to do if you are feeling unwell

If you are feeling unwell with any of the above symptoms and are concerned this may be due to Wuhan novel coronavirus, you should isolate yourself and seek medical attention by calling NHS 111 (dial 111), or your GP. 

This particularly applies to people who have travelled to Wuhan and the affected areas in the last 14 days and are exhibiting symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat or runny nose.

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

To avoid possible spread of the virus, please DO NOT visit your GP or go to A & E.

Safety measures

If you have travelled from Wuhan or Hubei Province to the UK in the last 14 days, you should immediately:

• stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
• call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area

Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus. This means staying at home and not going to work, school or public areas. Where possible, you should avoid having visitors to your home, but it’s okay for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.

Anyone who has travelled from anywhere else in China (not including Macao or Hong Kong) to the UK in the last 14 days and develops symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath should immediately self-isolate, even if symptoms are minor, and call NHS 111.

What can I do to lower my risk?

As with all viral illnesses, there are precautions we can all take reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus:
• cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, using a tissue
• throw the tissue away quickly and carefully
• wash your hands regularly with soap and water 
• clean hard surfaces (like door handles and remote controls) frequently with a normal cleaning product
• thoroughly cook meat and eggs and avoid raw or undercooked animal products
• avoid sharing food, drink and utensils
• regularly clean surfaces with disinfectant
• avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms

Who is at extra risk from Wuhan novel coronavirus?

Generally, Wuhan novel coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Am I at extra risk because I am taking immunosuppression treatment?

• Immunosuppressive medicine for Crohn’s and Colitis includes azathioprine, mercaptopurine, methotrexate, cyclosporin, infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab, ustekinumab, prednisolone, and budesonide. See our treatments pages for information about these medicines and how they may affect you.
• People taking immunosuppressants for their Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis are not at increased risk of catching Wuhan novel coronavirus, however they may be at extra risk of complications from the virus if they are infected.
• In the majority of cases, you will be advised to continue with your current treatment as there is the potential for a flare of your IBD and subsequent need for drugs such as steroids if maintenance treatment is stopped. 
• People on immunosuppressants should seek advice by telephone if they develop symptoms of either seasonal Influenza or Wuhan novel coronavirus. 


The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) is continuing to advise against all travel to Hubei Province, and now advises against all by essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao). 

Chinese authorities have suspended public transport in Wuhan and advised people in China to avoid travelling in and out of the city and avoid crowds.

Enhanced monitoring is in place for all direct flights from Wuhan to the UK. Following the change in FCO travel advice on Tuesday 28th January, British Airways has immediately suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect, until 29 January, while they assess the situation. 

Who should I contact if I am worried?

Based on the available evidence, the current risk to the UK is ‘moderate.’

If you do have specific medication concerns or symptoms you are worried about, you should speak to your GP, contact NHS 111 or get in touch with your IBD Nurse. 

Please do this by telephone, do not go in person to a hospital or your GP unless you have been advised to do so.

Last updated: 04.02.2020.