We all have a lot of doubts about this disease, which, in recent weeks, became our only topic of conversation. With this in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) published answers to the most frequently asked questions people ask about COVID-19. Next, we'll detail them to you.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are an extensive family of viruses that can cause disease in both animals and humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections that can range from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes COVID-19 coronavirus disease.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the most recently discovered infectious disease caused by coronavirus. Both the new virus and the disease were unknown before the outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
What is the history of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may develop aches, nasal congestion, rhinorrhea, sore throat, or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and appear gradually. Some people get infected, but they do not develop any symptoms and are not bad. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without any special treatment. About 1 in 6 people who get COVID-19 develop a serious illness and have difficulty breathing. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes, are more likely to develop a serious illness. About 2% of people who have contracted the disease have died. People who have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath should seek medical attention.
How does COVID-19 spread?
A person can get COVID-19 by contact with another person who is infected with the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through droplets from the nose or mouth that come out fired when an infected person coughs or exhales. These droplets fall on objects and surfaces around the person, so other people can get COVID-19 if they touch these objects or surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. They can also be infected if they inhale droplets that a person with COVID-19 has spread when coughing or exhaling. That's why it's important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.
WHO is studying ongoing research on ways of spreading COVID-19 and will continue to report on updated results.
Can the virus causing COVID-19 be transmitted through the air?
Studies conducted to date indicate that the virus causing COVID-19 is transmitted mainly by contact with respiratory droplets, rather than by air. See the previous answer to the question “How does COVID-19 spread? ”
Is it possible to get COVID-19 by contact with a person who does not have any symptoms?
The main way of spreading the disease is through the respiratory droplets expelled by someone when coughing. The risk of getting COVID-19 from someone who does not have any symptoms is very low. However, many people who get COVID-19 have only mild symptoms. This is particularly true in the early stages of the disease. Therefore, it is possible to get from someone who, for example, has only a mild cough and does not feel sick. WHO is studying ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19 and will continue to report on updated results.
Is it possible to get COVID-19 from contact with the stool of a person with the disease?
The risk of getting COVID-19 from contact with an infected person's stool appears to be low. Although initial research suggests that the virus may be present in some cases in the feces, the spread by this pathway is not one of the characteristic features of the outbreak. WHO is studying ongoing research on ways of spreading COVID-19 and will continue to report on new results. However, this is a risk and is therefore one more reason to wash your hands frequently, after going to the toilet and before eating.
What can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of the disease?
Measures of protection for all persons
Keep up to date with the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, accessible on the WHO website and through relevant public health authorities at national and local levels. There have been cases in many countries around the world, with outbreaks occurring in several countries. The GOC and those in other countries have managed to slow or stop the progress of outbreaks, but the situation is unpredictable and the most recent news needs to be checked regularly.
There are several precautions that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of getting or spreading COVID-19:
Wash your hands thoroughly and often using an alcohol-based sanitizer or with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Keep a minimum distance of 1 meter (3 feet) between you and anyone who coughs or sneezes.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they say goodbye through the nose or mouth droplets of fluid that may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe the droplets and with them the COVID-19 virus, if the person who coughs has the disease.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can collect viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to the eyes, nose, or mouth. From there, the virus can get into your body and cause the disease.
You and the people around you should be sure to maintain good airway hygiene. That means covering your mouth and nose with your elbow bent or with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. The used handkerchief should be discarded immediately.
Why? Viruses spread through droplets. By maintaining good respiratory hygiene, you are protecting people around you from viruses such as cold, flu, and COVID-19.
Stay at home if you are not well. If you have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the instructions of the local health authorities.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up-to-date information on the situation in their area. Calling in advance will allow your health care dispenser to quickly direct you to the right health center. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
Stay informed about the latest developments in relation to COVID-19. Follow the advice of your health care dispenser, relevant national and local health authorities, or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up-to-date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in their area. They are the best interlocutors to give advice on what people in your area should do to protect themselves.
See the latest news about the most dangerous areas (i.e. cities and places where the disease is spreading most widely). If possible, avoid moving to these areas, especially if your age is older or you have diabetes, heart disease, or pneumopathies.
Why? These precautions should be taken in these areas because the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 is higher.
Protective measures for people in areas where COVID-19 is spreading or who have recently visited them (in the past 14 days)
Follow the guidelines outlined above (Protection measures for all persons)
Stay at home if you start to feel bad, even if they are mild symptoms such as headache, light fever (37.3 oC or higher), and mild rhinorrhea, until you recover. If you find it essential to leave home or receive a visit (for example, to get food), put on a mask so as not to infect other people.
Why? Avoiding contacts with others and visits to medical centers will allow the latter to work more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 or other infections.
If you have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, seek medical advice quickly, as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and inform your health care dispenser about any recent trips you have made or any contact you have had with travelers.
Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care dispenser to quickly direct you to the right health center. This will also help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
How likely are you getting COVID-19?
The risk depends on where you are and, more specifically, whether a COVID-19 outbreak is occurring there.
For most people who are in most places, the risk of getting this disease remains low. However, we know that there are some places (cities or areas) where it is spreading and where the risk of contracting it is highest, both for the people who live there and for those who visit them. Governments and health authorities are acting with determination whenever a new COVID-19 case is detected. It is important that we all respect the restrictions on travel, movement and mass gatherings of people applicable to each particular location. If we cooperate with measures to combat the disease, we will reduce our risk of contracting or spreading it.
As has been seen in China and other countries, it is possible to stop the outbreaks of COVID-19 and end their transmission. However, the great speed with which new outbreaks may appear forces us to be aware of the situation where we are or where we intend to go. WHO publishes daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in the world, which are available in English at this link.
Should I worry about COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 are usually mild, especially in children and young adults. However, they can also be severe and require to hospitalize about one in five infected persons. Therefore, it is quite normal to worry about the effects that the COVID-19 outbreak can have on us and our loved ones.
This concern must serve us to take protective measures for us, our loved ones and the communities where we live. The main and most important measure is regular and complete hygiene of the hands and airways. Secondly, it is important to keep informed and to follow the councils of local health authorities, such as those relating to travel, travel and events where a large number of people can be concentrated. You can consult the protection tips on: https://www.who.int/es/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.
Who is at risk of developing a serious illness?
We still have a lot to learn about how COVID-2019 affects humans, but it seems that older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes) develop severe cases of the disease more frequently than others.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?
No. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, only against bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work against it. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used to treat a bacterial infection as directed by a doctor.
Are there any drugs or therapies to prevent or cure COVID-19?
Although some Western, traditional, or home remedies can provide comfort and alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medications can prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication, particularly with antibiotics, to prevent or cure COVID-19. There are several ongoing clinical trials with Western and traditional drugs. WHO will provide up-to-date information as soon as clinical trial results become available.
Are there any vaccines, medications, or treatment for COVID-19?
Not yet. To date, there is no specific vaccine or antiviral drug to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive health care to relieve symptoms. People who have severe cases of the disease should be hospitalized. Most patients recover with the help of supportive measures.
Potential vaccines and specific pharmacological treatments are being investigated. There are ongoing clinical trials to test them. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat COVID-19.
The most effective ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 are: washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth with your elbow or with a tissue when coughing, and maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who cough or sneeze. (See What can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of the disease?)
Are COVID-19 and SARS the same?
No. The genome of the virus that causes COVID-19 and the genome responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are similar, but not the same. SARS is more lethal but much less infectious than COVID-19. Since 2003, there have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world.
Should I wear a mask to protect myself?
If the respiratory symptoms characteristic of COVID-19 (especially cough) do not occur or care for a person who may have contracted this disease, it is not necessary to wear a clinical mask. Remember that disposable masks can only be used once, and also keep in mind that if you are not sick or do not care for someone who is, you are wasting a mask. The world's face mask stocks are running out, and WHO urges them to be used sensibly.
WHO advises rational use of clinical masks so as not to unduly waste or misuse valuable utensils (see When and how to wear masks).
The most effective measures against COVID-19 to protect yourself and others are: washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth with your elbow or with a tissue when coughing, and maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who cough or sneeze. For more information in this regard, please refer to the basic protection measures against the novel coronavirus.
How to put on, wear, remove and discard a mask
Remember that only healthcare workers, caregivers, and people with respiratory symptoms such as fever and cough should wear a mask.
- Before you touch the mask, wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.
- Inspect the mask for rips or holes.
- Orient up the top (where the metal strip is located).
- Be sure to orient outward the correct side of the mask (the colored side).
- Put the mask on your face. Pinch the metal strip or rigid edge of the mask so that it molds to the shape of your nose.
- Pull down the bottom of the mask to cover your mouth and chin.
- After use, remove the mask; remove the elastic bands behind your ears keeping the mask away from your face and clothing, so as not to touch potentially contaminated surfaces of the mask.
- Discard the mask in a closed container immediately after use.
- Wash your hands after touching or discarding the mask. Use an alcohol-based disinfectant or, if visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water.
How long does the incubation period of COVID-19 last?
The “incubation period” is the time that elapses between the virus infection and the onset of symptoms of the disease. Most estimates for the incubation period of COVID-19 range from 1 to 14 days, and are generally around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data is available.
Can humans get COVID-19 virus by contact with an animal?
Coronaviruses are an extensive family of viruses that are common among bats and other animals. Rarely people get infected with these viruses, which can then spread to other people. For example, SRA-CoV was associated with civettes and MERS-CoV is transmitted through dromedaries. The possible animal origin of COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed.
As a protective measure when visiting live animal markets or in other similar situations, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces that are in contact with them. Make sure that good food hygiene practices are observed at all times. Carefully handle meat, milk or organs of raw animals to avoid contamination of uncooked food and avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products.
Can my pet get me COVID-19?
Although there has been a case of an infected dog in Hong Kong, to date there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 spreads mainly through droplets produced by an infected person when coughing, sneezing, or talking. To protect yourself, wash your hands thoroughly frequently.
WHO keeps up to date on the latest research in this regard and other COVID-19 issues and will provide updated information on the findings that are being obtained.
How long does the virus survive on a surface?
It is not known for sure how long the COVID-19 virus survives on a surface, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies conducted (including preliminary information available on COVID-19 virus) indicate that coronaviruses can survive on a surface from a few hours to several days. Time may vary depending on conditions (e.g. surface type, temperature or ambient humidity).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
Is it safe to receive a package from an area where COVID-19 cases have been reported?
Yes. The likelihood that an infected person will contaminate commercial items is low, and the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus by contact with a package that has been handled, transported, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low.
Is there something I shouldn't do?
The following measures are NOT effective against COVID-2019 and may be harmful:
- Wear several masks
- Taking antibiotics
In any case, if you have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, try to get medical attention as soon as possible to reduce the risk of developing a more serious infection, and be sure to tell your health care dispenser about your recent trips.
Licenciada en Comunicación Social y correctora. Nacida y criada en el oeste del conurbano bonaerense. Sagitariana, vegetariana, crossfitera y viajera. Estoy convencida de que, con las palabras, podemos hacer magia. Pasen y lean.