Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Novel Coronavirus

Where do coronaviruses come from?
Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals but some of them are also known to affect humans. After a human is infected, the virus can be transmitted through human-to-human contact.

A great variety of animals is known to be the source of coronaviruses. For example, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) originated from camels and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) originated from civet cats.  

Is this virus comparable to SARS or to the seasonal flu (influenza)?
The Novel Coronavirus detected in China is genetically closely related to SARS virus.
SARS emerged at the end of 2002 in China and it resulted in more than 8000 SARS-cases reported by 33 countries in a period of 8 months. At that time, one in ten people who contracted SARS died.

At present, there is a lack of data available to indicate with certainty how severe COVID-19 is but preliminary findings indicate that it is less fatal than SARS coronavirus.
Although transmission and symptoms of influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are similar, yet the two viruses causing these infections are substantially different. For this moment, it is too early to draw conclusions on how the Novel Coronavirus spreads. However, preliminary information indicates that its mechanism of spread is more similar to SARS or pandemic influenza than spread of seasonal influenza. This may be explained by the fact that there were no prior cases of this particular infection. According to the data of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, it is estimated that each year up to 40 000 people die due to causes of influenza (flu) in Europe. 

How does a person get infected with COVID-19?
Certain coronaviruses are transmitted human-to-human, usually in a close contact with a coronavirus patient, for example at home, at work or in medical treatment institution. COVID-19 can also be transmitted human-to-human contact. The virus is transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough or exhale.

The incubation period for COVID-19 (i.e. the time between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms) is currently estimated at between 2 and 14 days. The virus can be transmitted when the infected people show flu-like symptoms, however, it is suspected that some people may spread the virus sooner before they start experiencing the symptoms.  

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
They are similar to influenza (flu) symptomsfever, cough, shortness of breath, other respiratory disorders, myalgia (muscle pain) and fatigue. In more severe cases it may cause pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock, kidney failure or even result in death. 

Who is at a higher risk of becoming infected with the virus?
• healthcare staff providing medical aid and treatment to the people infected with COVID-19;

• family members and other persons, who closely communicate with the infected people;
• elderly people and those who have chronic diseases. 

Is there a treatment against COVID-19?
There is no specific treatment against COVID-19, therefore, symptomatic treatment is used only. Patients may be cured depending on their health condition and considering when the treatment has started. European Medicines Agency (EMA) cooperates with World Health Organization in order to find working anti-viral medication and its compounds. 

What are the rules for proper hand washing?

Hand washing is essential in order to prevent from infection:

  • You should wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • If soap and water are not available, you can also use alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.

The virus enters your body via your eyes, nose and mouth, so avoid touching them with unwashed hands.

Are face masks effective in order to protect from coronavirus?
Face masks are recommended to sick patients, who cough and sneeze. In this case, wearing a face mask may prevent from spreading the virus in the environment. Yet, bear in mind that face masks do not stop the virus and do not prevent from infection in case of a close contact. 

Can influenza vaccine protect from coronavirus?
Influenza vaccine does not protect from coronavirus. 

How to protect yourself from coronavirus infections?

In order to reduce the spread of the infection, it is recommended to follow standard measures:

  • frequently wash hands with warm water and soap;
  • avoid touching face and eyes;
  • pay attention to cough and sneeze etiquette (coughing or sneezing into a tissue or into your elbow);
  • follow rules for safe food preparation (particularly when using uncooked meat and eggs);
  • avoid close contact with people who experience respiratory disease symptoms (for example, coughing and sneezing). 

Can you get infected by contacting with animals in Europe?
Current research links COVID-19 to certain types of bats, but it does not exclude the possibility of involvement of other animals. There is no evidence that pets (e.g. dogs or cats) pose a risk of infection to humans. Yet, as a general precaution, it is always advised to observe and follow basic hygiene principles when in contact with animals. 

Information was prepared by the Ministry of Health


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