What is Coronavirus and how to protect yourself against it?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered Coronavirus.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently and not touching your face.
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new Coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
How easily the virus spreads
How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.
The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
How long can the new Coronavirus linger on surfaces, anyway? The short answer is, we don’t know. A new analysis found that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours. This study was originally published in the preprint database medRxiv on March 11, and now a revised version was published March 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Another study published in February in The Journal of Hospital Infection analyzed several dozen previously published papers on human Coronaviruses (other than the new Coronavirus) to get a better idea of how long they can survive outside of the body.
They concluded that if this new Coronavirus resembles other human Coronaviruses, such as its “cousins” that cause SARS and MERS, it can stay on surfaces — such as metal, glass or plastic — for as long as nine days (In comparison, flu viruses can last on surfaces for only about 48 hours.)
But some of them don’t remain active for as long at temperatures higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). The authors also found that these Coronaviruses can be effectively wiped away by household disinfectants.
For example, disinfectants with 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) can “efficiently” inactivate Coronaviruses within a minute, according to the study. “We expect a similar effect against the 2019-nCoV,” the researchers wrote, referring to the new Coronavirus. But even though the new Coronavirus is a similar strain to the SARS Coronavirus, it’s not clear if it will behave the same.
It’s possible that a person can be infected with the virus by touching a contaminated surface or object, “then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “But this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Though the virus remains viable in the air, the new study can’t say whether people can become infected by breathing it in from the air, according to the Associated Press.
The virus is most likely to spread from person to person through close contact and respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes that can land on a nearby person’s mouth or nose, according to the CDC.
If a person in a household is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, “clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas,” according to the CDC’s recommendations. Common household areas include tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets and sinks.
What’s more, “As much as possible, an ill person should stay in a specific room and away from other people in their home,” they wrote. The caregiver should try to stay away from the ill person as much as possible; this means the ill person, if possible, should clean and disinfect surfaces themselves. If that’s not possible, the caregiver should wait “as long as practical” after an ill person uses the bathroom to clean and disinfect surfaces, according to the CDC.
The source of the Coronavirus is believed to be a “wet market” in Wuhan which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds.
Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are difficult to maintain if live animals are being kept and butchered on site. Typically, they are also densely packed.
The animal source of the latest outbreak has not yet been identified, but the original host is thought to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market but may have infected live chickens or other animals sold there.
Bats are host to a wide range of zoonotic viruses including Ebola, HIV and rabies.
There are laboratory tests that can identify the virus that causes COVID-19 in respiratory specimens. State and local public health departments have received tests from CDC while medical providers are getting tests developed by commercial manufacturers. All of these tests are Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panels, that can provide results in 4 to 6 hours.
Who should be tested
Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Here is some information that might help in making decisions about seeking care or testing.
- Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.
- There is no treatment specifically approved for this virus.
- Testing results may be helpful to inform decision-making about who you come in contact with.
How to get tested
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, try calling your state or local health department or a medical provider. While supplies of these tests are increasing, it may still be difficult to find a place to get tested.
What to do after you are tested
If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your specimen was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. It is possible that you were very early in your infection at the time of your specimen collection and that you could test positive later, or you could be exposed later and then develop illness. In other words, a negative test result does not rule out getting sick later.
If you test positive for COVID-19, see the following:
- What To Do if You Are Sick
Stay home except to get medical care
- Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Do not leave, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
- Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people in your home, this is known as home isolation
- Stay away from others: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific “sick room” and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
- Limit contact with pets & animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.
- Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people with the virus limit contact with animals until more information is known.
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick with COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
Call ahead before visiting your doctor
Call ahead: If you have a medical appointment, call your doctor’s office or emergency department, and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.
Wear a facemask if you are sick
- If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
- If you are caring for others: If the person who is sick is not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live in the home should stay in a different room. When caregivers enter the room of the sick person, they should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Cover: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Dispose: Throw used tissues in a lined trash can.
- Wash hands: Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean your hands often
- Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
- Soap and water: Soap and water are the best option, especially if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid sharing personal household items
- Do not share: Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
- Wash thoroughly after use: After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or put in the dishwasher.
Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
- Clean high-touch surfaces in your isolation area (“sick room” and bathroom) every day; let a caregiver clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in other areas of the home.
- Clean and disinfect: Routinely clean high-touch surfaces in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas, but not your bedroom and bathroom.
- If a caregiver or other person needs to clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver/other person should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
- High-touch surfaces include phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
- Clean and disinfect areas that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
- Household cleaners and disinfectants: Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant.
- Be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. Many products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed. Many also recommend precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
Monitor your symptoms
- Seek medical attention but call first: Seek medical care right away if your illness is worsening (for example, if you have difficulty breathing).
- Call your doctor before going in: Before going to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them your symptoms. They will tell you what to do.
- Wear a facemask: If possible, put on a facemask before you enter the building. If you can’t put on a facemask, try to keep a safe distance from other people (at least 6 feet away). This will help protect the people in the office or waiting room.
- Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department: Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.
If you are very sick get medical attention immediately
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include*:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
WHO and CDC recommend following these precautions for avoiding COVID-19:
- Avoid large events and mass gatherings.
- Avoid close contact (about 6 feet) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.
- Keep distance between yourself and others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch on a daily basis.
WHO also recommends these steps:
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or animal organs.
- If you’re visiting live markets in areas that have recently had new Coronavirus cases, avoid contact with live animals and surfaces they may have touched.
- If you have a chronic medical condition and may have a higher risk of serious illness, check with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself.
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to an area reporting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the new Coronavirus
There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new Coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather. The most effective way to protect yourself against the new Coronavirus is by frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water.
Taking a hot bath does not prevent the new Coronavirus disease
Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
The new Coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites
To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new Coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new Coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.
Are hand dryers effective in killing the new Coronavirus?
No. Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV. To protect yourself against the new Coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.
Can an ultraviolet disinfection lamp kill the new Coronavirus?
UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.
How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new Coronavirus?
Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new Coronavirus.
However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. This is because it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.
Can spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kill the new Coronavirus?
No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.
Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new Coronavirus?
No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new Coronavirus.
The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts.
Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.
Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with the new Coronavirus?
No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new Coronavirus.
There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.
Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the new Coronavirus?
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new Coronavirus.
Does the new Coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?
People of all ages can be infected by the new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new Coronavirus?
No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.
The new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
However, if you are hospitalized for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new Coronavirus?
To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials.
Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones.
We can channel our concerns into actions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. First and foremost, among these actions is regular and thorough hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene. Secondly, keep informed and follow the advice of the local health authorities including any restrictions put in place on travel, movement and gatherings.
Check out some more facts from WHO website.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Occasionally, people get infected with these viruses which may then spread to other people. For example, SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels. Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed.
To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.
Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.
The following measures ARE NOT effective against COVID-2019 and can be harmful:
- Wearing multiple masks
- Taking antibiotics
In any case, if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your recent travel history with your health care provider.
Employers should start doing these things now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate. They can already reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives at one of your workplaces.
• Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic
- Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly
- Why? Because contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads
• Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers
- Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled
- Display posters promoting hand-washing – ask your local public health authority for these or look on www.WHO.int.
- Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings and information on the intranet to promote hand-washing
- Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water
- Why? Because washing kills the virus on your hands and prevents the spread of COVID19
• Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace
- Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefing at meetings and information on the intranet etc.
- Ensure that face masks1 and / or paper tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them
- Why? Because good respiratory hygiene prevents the spread of COVID-19
• Brief your employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at home. They should also stay home (or work from home) if they have had to take simple medications, such as paracetamol/acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection
Why do employers and organizers need to think about COVID-19?
Organizers of meetings and events need to think about the potential risk from COVID-19 because:
• There is a risk that people attending your meeting or event might be unwittingly bringing the COVID-19 virus to the meeting. Others might be unknowingly exposed to COVID-19.
• While COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, it can make some very ill. Around 1 in every 5 people who catch COVID-19 needs hospital treatment.