AN expert in diseases has predicted that we could see the first cases of coronavirus in Cumbria “in the not too distant future”.

Carlisle-based academic doctor John Campbell has studied and taught about diseases for many years.

“Unfortunately I expect there to be cases in Cumbria in the not too distant future,” he told The Cumberland News.

“I would be surprised not to see more cases across the UK in the next few days or so too.”

Although work is ongoing to produce a vaccine, Dr Campbell says it is still far away.

“Everyone is working on a vaccine. The Americans and Chinese have a vaccine and they are at the stage of animal testing.

“Then we move on to phase one clinical trials. It is not going to be ready for people to inject arms in Carlisle this year, it will be 2021.”

Although the virus has a high contamination rate, the death rate is not as alarming.

Mr Campbell pointed to official Chinese data from February 11, which shows that the virus has a 0.2 per cent death rate in those under 40, 0.4 per cent for those aged between 40 and 50, 1.3 per cent for 50-year-olds, 3.6 per cent for those in their sixties, eight per cent for those in their seventies and 14.8 per cent for anyone aged 80 and above.

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The former University of Cumbria lecturer is in contact with doctors in one of the worst affected areas, who are putting themselves at risk to share their findings.

“I have had emails from doctors from Iran who think the death rate there is higher than the death rate in China.

“The virus cases there also seem to be may be more pathogenic, but it is unclear whether this is due to the virulence of the viral strain in Iran or difficulty accessing healthcare.

“Obviously this is only a small number of doctors, so it’s also not a representative sample.

“We don’t know for sure as the information from Iran is hard to come by.”

Director of Public Health for Cumbria County Council Colin Cox said: “Given the way things are developing, particularly in Italy, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more cases in the UK - there are bound to be - I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we eventually got some cases in Cumbria.”

Mr Cox says the county is prepared for the virus.

“At the moment, as I speak there have not been that many cases in the UK at all, nine detected in the UK (the latest figure is now 11 cases).

“A very small number of cases. I think Cumbria is very well equipped to deal with cases on that sort of level, if we have a case here we’ll be able to cope with that absolutely fine.

“It’s important to keep this in perspective and not get overly worried. There is no cause for panic at the moment.

“Keep an eye out for symptoms. At every time of the year we say this around flu, people should be observing things like good hand hygiene. If you’re coughing or sneezing use a handkerchief and bin the tissue afterwards.

“Make sure you’re washing your hands thoroughly.”

He recommended anyone with concerns call 111.