iSLAMABAD-Yes. The mortality rate for the general population is thought to be between 1 and 2 percent. But this rises to 8 percent to those in their 70s, and to 15 percent for over-80s. People with underlying conditions are at even greater risk.

How can we protect the elderly? Make sure they do not come into contact with the virus. That means anyone visiting them should be very careful about hygiene – by washing their hands and perhaps staying away if they have a cold. But don’t avoid all contact – experts believe this will do more harm than good. It could mean they become isolated, exacerbating loneliness. Should they avoid crowds? The World Health Organization said anyone over the age of 60 – or those with existing health conditions – should ‘try to avoid crowded areas’. Public Health England, however, says this advice is overly cautious until there is ‘evidence of sustained and widespread transmission within the community’, and the Government is keen for everyone to carry on their normal day-to-day routine.

What should you do if an elderly person is told to self-isolate? Age UK advises that people stay in touch over the phone, by post or online – for example, by using video chat services. See if people need any shopping or help by running errands. It is important to encourage people to stay active around the house.

How will they be treated? Most patients are taken to hospital and treated in isolation until the virus has passed.

In some cases this can be very quick – only 5 percent of patients are sick enough to require intensive care.

In more severe cases treatment includes life support and can take some days.

Isn’t the risk of infection higher in hospital? No. Hospitals are safe because infection control has been so thorough since the beginning of the outbreak.

How might the advice for the elderly change? During an epidemic, the elderly could be told to have minimal contact with the outside world because they are at such high risk – but only during the peak of the disease, which may last for three weeks.