COVID-19: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW? by RACHEL GRAHAM

WHAT IS A CORONAVIRUS?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. The pandemic’s global death toll of COVID-19 has reached almost 5,000, while the global number of cases from 123 countries and territories has surpassed 132,000 , according to the WHO, which is the health agency of the United Nations. About 68,000 victims have recovered until Mar. 14th 2020 .

The WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic as Italy tightened its strict quarantine and the US imposed a ban on flights to Europe. Meanwhile, the virus has spread to at least 18 countries on the African continent, with Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Guinea all confirming their first cases on Friday. Qatar’s health ministry has confirmed 58 new cases of coronavirus, taking the Gulf state’s total number of infections to 320, state news agency QNA reported.

Cyprus will shut its borders for 15 days to any individual other than Cypriots, Europeans and persons with special permits in a precautionary move against coronavirus, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday. The measure would come into effect March 15, he said in a state address.

Poland will ban foreigners from entering the country from Sunday and impose a 14-day quarantine on its citizens returning home in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Louisiana became the first state in the United States to postpone a scheduled presidential primary election because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Tunisia will immediately suspend prayers in mosques, close cafes at 4pm every day, and ban all cultural, sports and economic gatherings to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said.

Syrian authorities have announced measures aimed at preventing coronavirus from reaching the war-torn country, including school closures and a ban on smoking shisha in cafes, state media reported.

Denmark will close its borders as of noon on Saturday for non-citizens in a move to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Danish prime minister said.

India reported its second death from coronavirus, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said. The patient was a 68-year-old woman with diabetes and hypertension and died in the country’s capital, New Delhi.  

Q&A ON CORONAVIRUSES (COVID-19)

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

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 diarrhea. 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. About 2% of people with the disease have died. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How does COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be transmitted through the air?

Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air. See previous answer on “How does COVID-19 spread?”

Can CoVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19 and will continue to share updated findings.

Can I catch COVID-19 from the feces of someone with the disease?

The risk of catching COVID-19 from the feces of an infected person appears to be low. While initial investigations suggest the virus may be present in feces in some cases, spread through this route is not a main feature of the outbreak. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share new findings. Because this is a risk, however, it is another reason to clean hands regularly, after using the bathroom and before eating.  

HOW COVID-19 SPREADS

Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a new disease and there is more to learn about how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States.

Person-to-person spread

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.

Spread from contact with infected 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.

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.

How easily does the virus spread?

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.

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Geographic Areas with Sustained Transmission (Community or Widespread) – Last updated February 28, 2020

• China (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)

• Iran (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)

• Most of Europe (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)

• South Korea (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)

• Global Outbreak Notice (Level 2 Travel Health Notice)  

 

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19) ADVICE FOR THE PUBLIC

Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus

COVID-19 is still affecting mostly people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider

Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority 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 your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

When to use a mask

• If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.

• Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.

• Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

• If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

How to put on, use, take off and dispose of a mask

• Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

• Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.

• Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

• Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.

• To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

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.

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.

Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?

Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.

Can pets at home spread the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

 

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 putting on sesame oil block the new coronavirus from entering the body?

No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCoV on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform.

However, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.

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. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners.

Should I stock up on food and meds?

The reason to stock up on certain products now isn’t so much to avoid potential shortages in the event of an outbreak but to practice what experts call social distancing. Basically, you want to avoid crowds to minimize your risk of catching the disease. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the last place you want to be is in line at a crowded grocery store or drugstore.

If you take daily medications — for example, blood pressure pills — make sure you have enough to last a couple of weeks, suggests Katz, as long as you can get approval for an extended supply from your insurance provider.

Are special cleaning supplies needed?

We still don’t know exactly how long the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces. But Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, says what we know from other coronaviruses is that most household cleansers — such as bleach wipes or alcohol — will kill them.

Even wiping down surfaces with soap and water should do the trick, he says, because this coronavirus has a lipid envelope around it — like a coat that keeps the RNA inside the viral particle. And soap is a detergent that can break down lipids. “We use them to take grease and oil, which is a lipid, off our dishes,” he notes. If COVID-19 does start circulating in your community or there’s someone sick at home, plan on cleaning surfaces that get touched frequently — such as kitchen counters and bathroom faucets — several times a day, says Dr. Trish Perl, chief of the infectious disease division at UT Southwestern Medical Center. That advice, she says, comes from studies on other diseases “where they’ve shown that if you do clean up the environment, you can actually decrease the amount of virus that is on hard surfaces significantly.”

What about face masks?

The science on whether it’s helpful to wear a face mask out in public is really, really mixed, as we’ve reported in depth. (For starters, it depends on what kind of mask you are wearing and whether you use it correctly.)

Some infectious disease experts are reluctant to recommend that people wear masks as a preventive measure because they can provide a false sense of security.

What experts do agree on is that wearing a mask is a good idea if you are sick, so you can reduce the chances that you’ll infect others, whether it’s family members at home or people at the doctor’s office if you go in to be seen. Perl says that wearing a mask when sick is especially a good idea if you live with someone whose immune system is compromised or who’s elderly, since people in their 60s and above seem to be the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Some research suggests that wearing a mask can help protect you if you’re caring for a sick family member, but only if you wear it all the time in the presence of the sick person and if you are careful not to touch the front of it, which could be contaminated with pathogens.

What to do about work — and telecommuting?

Now is the time to talk to your boss about your ability to work from home if COVID-19 is spreading locally, says Morse. Obviously, if you’re sick, you should stay home. But even if you are well, telecommuting makes sense in the event of a local outbreak to reduce the chances that you’ll be infected.

“That might be the prudent thing for many people to do if they’re able to do it,” he says, especially in big cities like New York, where large crowds of people are concentrated on public transport.

What’s the plan if you get sick?

If you show early signs of illness — like a fever or a dry cough — Bracho-Sanchez says you should call your doctor’s office but don’t necessarily head straight to the emergency room or urgent care, where you might infect others.

“Do you really need to come into the office? Can we work this out through the phone?” Bracho-Sanchez says. “Of course, if you’re having trouble breathing, if you’re dehydrated, that’s a different story.”

Do you have a plan for kids and older relatives?

Perl and Katz suggest you start figuring out now what you would do if day care centers or schools start closing because of an outbreak.

Do you have a backup child care plan in place?

“Having a plan for these kinds of eventualities now — instead of like it happened in China, where one minute things were open and the next minute they weren’t — can be very helpful and a lot less disruptive,” Perl says.

“For example, for me, I’m trying to think about, what if my mother gets sick? She doesn’t live in Dallas,” where Perl is. “What am I going to do? How am I going to get her cared for?”

Perl says it would be wise to reach out now to friends or neighbors who might be able to help in such situations.

Are there any habits I can practice at home to stay healthy?

Wash your hands as soon as you walk through the door.

You’ve heard it over and over, but one of the best ways to protect yourself against infection from COVID-19 — or cold or flu, for that matter – is good old-fashioned hand hygiene. Washing your hands frequently, as well as avoiding touching your face, eyes and nose, is a tried-and-true way to cut down on respiratory infections, Perl says.

Studies have shown that “good hand-washing and frequent hand-washing will decrease the risk of transmission of these viruses anywhere from 30 to 50 percent,” she says. “You can use the alcohol-based hand gels, or you can use soap and water. It doesn’t need to be any kind of antibacterial soap.” And you should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

Also, if you’re not already doing it, start practicing good respiratory etiquette: Cough into your elbow instead of spewing virus-laden particles into the air (and wash your hands right after), and make sure to throw out your used tissues, since they might have virus particles on them.  

PROTECTION MEASURES FOR PERSONS WHO ARE IN OR HAVE RECENTLY VISITED (PAST 14 DAYS) AREAS WHERE COVID-19 IS SPREADING

• Follow the guidance outlined above.

• Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.

• If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF AND PREVENT THE SPREAD OF DISEASE?

Protection measures for everyone

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. COVID-19 is still affecting mostly people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

• Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

• Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

• Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

• Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

• Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority 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 your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading

• Follow the guidance outlined above. (Protection measures for everyone)

• Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.

• If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.

Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

How likely am I to catch COVID-19?

• The risk depends on where you live or where you have travelled recently. The risk of infection is higher in areas where a number people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 95% of all COVID-19 cases are occurring in China, with the majority of those in Hubei Province. For people in most other parts of the world, your risk of getting COVID-19 is currently low, however, it’s important to be aware of the situation and preparedness efforts in your area.

• WHO is working with health authorities in China and around the world to monitor and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Should I worry about COVID-19?

If you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or if you have not travelled from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low. However, it’s understandable that you may feel stressed and anxious about the situation. It’s a good idea to get the facts to help you accurately determine your risks so that you can take reasonable precautions. Your healthcare provider, your national public health authority and your employer are all potential sources of accurate information on COVID-19 and whether it is in your area. It is important to be informed of the situation where you live and take appropriate measures to protect yourself. (See Protection measures for everyone).

If you are in an area where there is an outbreak of COVID-19 you need to take the risk of infection seriously. Follow the advice issued by national and local health authorities. Although for most people COVID-19 causes only mild illness, it can make some people very ill. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes) appear to be more vulnerable.

Who is at risk of developing severe illness?

While we are still learning about how COVID-2019 affects people, older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?

Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. For more information, see basic protective measures against the new coronavirus.

Is COVID-19 the same as SARS?

No. The virus that causes COVID-19 and the one that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are related to each other genetically, but they are different. SARS is more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

People with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical mask. WHO recommends the use of masks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever. The use of masks is crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone (at home or in a health care facility).

WHO advises rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and mis-use of masks. Use a mask only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have suspected COVID-19 infection with mild symptoms, or are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19 infection. A suspected COVID-19 infection is linked to travel in areas where cases have been reported, or close contact with someone who has travelled in these areas and has become ill.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. For more information, see basic protective measures against the new coronavirus.

How to put on, use, take off and dispose of a mask?

1. Remember, a mask should only be used by health workers, care takers, and individuals with respiratory symptoms, such as fever and cough.

2. Before touching the mask, clean hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water

3. Take the mask and inspect it for tears or holes.

4. Orient which side is the top side (where the metal strip is).

5. Ensure the proper side of the mask faces outwards (the coloured side).

6. Place the mask to your face. Pinch the metal strip or stiff edge of the mask so it moulds to the shape of your nose.

7. Pull down the mask’s bottom so it covers your mouth and your chin.

8. After use, take off the mask; remove the elastic loops from behind the ears while keeping the mask away from your face and clothes, to avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces of the mask.

9. Discard the mask in a closed bin immediately after use.

10. Perform hand hygiene after touching or discarding the mask – Use alcohol-based hand rub or, if visibly soiled, wash your hands with soap and water.

How long is the incubation period for COVID-19?

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.

Can humans become infected with the COVID-19 from an animal source?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Rarely, 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.

Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?

No. There is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?

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.

Is there anything I should not do?

The following measures ARE NOT effective against COVID-2019 and can be harmful:

• Smoking

• Taking traditional herbal remedies

• Wearing multiple masks

• Taking self-medication such as 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.

 

  CORONAVIRUS: SAFETY AND READINESS TIPS

LIMIT THE SPREAD OF GERMS AND PREVENT INFECTION

There are common sense steps we can all take to prevent the spread of any respiratory virus:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

• Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

• Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.

• Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.

o CDC does not recommend that people who are healthy wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

o Facemasks should be used by people who are ill to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

o The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

GET YOUR HOUSEHOLD READY

There are things you can do right now to be ready for any emergency, and many of these same tips will help you prepare in case this new coronavirus risk level increases in the U.S.

• Have a supply of food staples and household supplies like laundry detergent and bathroom items, and diapers if you have small children.

• Check to make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of your prescription medications, and have other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.

• Know how your local public health agency will share information.

• Learn how your children’s schools and your place of work plan to handle any outbreak.

• People with elderly parents or relatives should have a plan in place for caring for them if they fall ill.

It’s important to emphasize that if you have traveled to an area affected by the outbreak, and feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical advice. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room and tell them about your travel and symptoms.  

WHAT PARENTS AND PREGNANT PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WUHAN CORONAVIRUS?

The first case of a person-to-person transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus in the US was confirmed last week. Despite this development — and the fact that the coronavirus been declared a global health emergency — specialists say pregnant people and parents of children — do not need to take special precautions outside of those that have been recommended for the general population.

In fact, experts say parents of children and pregnant people should continue to be more vigilant when it comes to guarding against the flu, which has infected at least 15 million Americans over the past four months, and kills more Americans than any other virus.

So far, this year, 2,900 people have died from the flu in the US, including 27 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The US has confirmed 11 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The flu is a far greater risk to pregnant women and children than the coronavirus is at this point

“From a risk standpoint, I would worry more about flu right now,” Dr. Vanessa Raabe, assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health, told Insider.

Since Chinese authorities first identified the outbreak of the coronavirus — formally called 2019-nCoV — at the end of December in the industrial city of Wuhan, more than 17,000 people have been infected and the death toll has reached at least 360.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common among animals and spread among people. They typically lead to cold-like symptoms or pneumonia, but can also be severe, as was the case with the outbreaks of SARS and MERS. The novel coronavirus is marked by symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

It’s possible that children may be less likely to contract Wuhan coronavirus. Or, if they do develop the virus, they may develop less severe symptoms, according to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine last Thursday. The authors drew that conclusion after analyzing the characteristics of the first 425 people who were infected with coronavirus in Wuhan. The median age was 59 and the youngest person to die from the illness was 36.

At that point, no one younger than 15 had developed the novel coronavirus.

However, since that study was conducted, a 9-month-old baby in Beijing was diagnosed with 2019-nCoV.

It’s possible that children are less likely to develop the novel coronavirus than adults

“It’s possible that, due to some quirk of biology, children are simply less susceptible than adults to 2019-nCoV infection; their cells may be less hospitable to the virus, making it more difficult for 2019-nCoV to replicate and jump to other people,” Time reported.

When it comes to the flu, children, especially those younger than 5, are more at risk of developing serious complications. A 4-year-old girl from Iowa, for example, became blind after contracting the flu this year.

Pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing complications from the flu, and so are their unborn babies. The CDC recommends anyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine.

Wuhan coronavirus symptoms can closely mirror flu symptoms. Getting the flu vaccine can also mean protecting against experiencing symptoms that are reminiscent of the novel coronavirus, which may offer some added peace of mind.

Store-bought surgical masks likely won’t help protect against the Wuhan coronavirus

There’s currently no available vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus. While some people have taken to wearing surgical masks to guard against infection, experts say this won’t help much unless the mask is hospital-grade.

“We don’t actually recommend it,” Raab said of wearing store-bought masks as a protective measure. “They don’t have a tight seal on the face, so you can still get air going in through the sides and to the top and the bottom.”

However, for a person who is sick and aiming to protect others, wearing a store-bought surgical mask may be beneficial.

The CDC has advised against all nonessential travel to China. Travelers arriving to the US from China are being screened with questionnaires and are being observed for symptoms.

The organization is urging people to take the same basic general precautions they take all year long against developing any other virus or infection. That includes frequent handwashing, covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve, and wiping down surfaces.

“The best thing you can do is try to stay away from other people who are sick,” Raab said, “and do the same thing that you would be doing to try to prevent things like flu.”  

THE IMPACT OF THE CORONAVIRUS ON BUSINESS

The Economic Impact of COVID-19 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

As travelers cancel flights, businesses ask workers to stay home, and stocks fall, a global health crisis becomes a global economic crisis. In any health crisis, our first concern is (and should be) with the health of those affected. More than 5,000 people have died worldwide and more than 132,000 cases have been confirmed in over 123 countries. But unfortunately, the economic impacts also have dramatic effects on the wellbeing of families and communities. For vulnerable families, lost income due to an outbreak can translate to spikes in poverty, missed meals for children, and reduced access to healthcare far beyond COVID-19. While the spread in the United States and Europe absorbs much of the media coverage, confirmed cases from Bangladesh to Brazil, from Cameroon to Costa Rica, and in many other low- and middle-income countries mean that many of the economic impacts may affect the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Assessing the economic impact of COVID-19?

Beyond the human tragedy, there is a direct economic impact from lives lost in an outbreak. Families and loved ones lose that income and their in-kind contributions to household income such as childcare. Of note, the distribution of COVID-19 fatalities skews old, which means many of those most likely to die are no longer working and are less likely to be the primary provider for their families. (Keep in mind, though, that in many low- and middle-income countries, individuals work until a later age.) Though less likely to pass away from COVID-19, many working age adults still fall ill and their families will feel the financial burden as they miss work for days or weeks.

Most of the economic impact of the virus will be—as we are already seeing—from “aversion behavior,” the actions people take to avoid catching the virus (which can, it should be noted, be a logical and proportional response). As depicted in the figure above, this aversion behavior comes from three sources:

Governments impose bans on certain types of activities, as when the government of China orders factories to shut down or Italy closes most shops throughout the country.

Firms and institutions (including private schools and private companies) take proactive measures to avoid infection. Business closures—whether through government bans or business decisions—result in lost wages for workers in many cases, especially in the informal economy where there is no paid leave.

Individuals reduce trips to the market, travel, going out, and other social activities.

These actions affect all sectors of the economy—the health sector, manufacturing, retail and other services, trade and transportation, education, and others. These in turn translate into reduced income both through the supply side (reduced production drives up prices for consumers) and the demand side (reduced demand from consumers hurts business owners and their employees).

For example, unplanned pregnancies rose sharply in Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic, likely in part a result of school closures. Adolescent mothers are less likely to return to school, and their children will likely have fewer health and educational investments. Further, health workers are on the front lines of epidemics and losing some of them to the disease—especially in countries where they’re already in short supply—can lead to worsening health conditions in the long-term, such as maternal and infant mortality. These all have poverty implications well beyond their humanitarian implications.

Beyond China and Iran, most documented cases of COVID-19 to date have been in high-income countries. Latin America and Africa have had particularly few cases, with a few dozen documented in Brazil and fewer in other countries in the regions. It is difficult to know how much of that is due to health systems in some Latin American and African countries not being set up to diagnose cases effectively and how much is due to the virus not yet spreading widely. It is certainly possible that—in the absence of aggressive action—the spread in poorer nations may come later, even as the epidemic gets under control in higher-income countries. As a result, the health consequences and the economic impacts from aversion behavior may reverberate in poor countries longer after the epidemic subsides in rich countries.

What we know so far—and what to expect

Economic estimates of the likely global impact vary dramatically, with Orlik and others at Bloomberg hypothesizing $2.7 trillion in lost output, the Asian Development Bank releasing scenarios from $77 billion to $347 billion, and an OECD report talking about a halving of global economic growth.

Here’s a roundup of analysis of the actual and potential economic impacts of the crisis so far in low- and middle-income countries:

Baker-McKenzie reviews the likely impact across sectors in African countries, mostly focusing on the impact that stems from slowdown in the Chinese economy, with reduced Chinese demand for raw materials, likely reduced investments in energy, mining, and other sectors, and a fall in travel and tourism. (March 10)

An Asian Development Bank brief proposes four scenarios—best-case, moderate impact, worse case, and worst case—for 22 Asian countries, projecting the largest impacts in the Maldives, Cambodia, and Thailand. (March)

DW documents how shutdowns in Chinese factories affect consumers in Africa. “About a fourth of Ugandan imports come from China. Supply chains have been interrupted for weeks because many Chinese factories shut down production. Small traders selling textiles, electronics or household goods are in trouble… In Niger, stocks of certain goods, including groceries, from China have already been significantly decimated, leading to higher prices.” In Zimbabwe and Angola, exports to China have crashed. (March 3)

Jeremy Stevens of Standard Bank in Beijing points to an array of likely disruptions but highlights that once the epidemic is under control, “much of the rationale for China’s endeavors in Africa (or Belt and Road, for that matter) are to leverage China’s competitive advantage in infrastructure, offshore some overcapacity sectors, and heavier industry, and tap into fast-growing consumer markets. All of this remains.” (February 28)

Strategy& estimates “a potential loss of at least R200 million in Chinese tourist spending” in South Africa. (February 20)

Dai, Hu, and Zhang report from the Enterprise Survey for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in China that “20 percent of surveyed firms will be unable to last beyond a month on a cash flow basis, and 64 percent beyond three months, presenting a dire picture for [small and medium-sized enterprise] bankruptcies under an extended epidemic scenario.” (February 28)

As you can see, most of the data and observed impacts in the developing world so far stem from production and export stoppages from China, and pre-date the worsening economic conditions in Europe and the United States. But as the economies of other countries slow down with the spread of the disease, we’ll see these impacts show up more clearly in economic data and likely grow over time.

What should we do to minimize COVID-19’s economic impact? Recommendations from the IMF

What actions can policymakers and donors take to lessen the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for low- and middle-income countries? Here are three actions beyond the stimulus and liquidity recommendations from the International Monetary Fund: Contain the pandemic. “To assuage market reactions to the outbreak, you have to present a viable plan to defeat *the outbreak*.” As long as the outbreak is actively spreading, many aversion behaviors may well be rational and wise. Containing the disease is the first step to mitigating not only the health impacts but also the economic impacts.

Strengthen the safety net. The most vulnerable households are those most likely to be affected economically. Low-wage workers are often those most likely to lose their jobs if they miss work due to an extended illness. They are often the least able to work remotely to avoid contracting the virus. And they are the least likely to have savings to survive an economic downturn. Making sure there is an economic safety net—cash transfers, sick leave, subsidized health coverage—in place helps the most vulnerable survive and provides support to enterprises that serve those populations.

Measure the impact. Systematic data on which populations are experiencing the greatest hardships and which industries are failing is essential to providing assistance. During the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2015, researchers used phone surveys in Sierra Leone and Liberia—building on the sample frames from existing surveys—to gather just-in-time information on the impacts of both ill health and aversion behavior on households and enterprises across the countries. Even as we monitor the health situation across and within countries, monitoring the economic situation and providing support to households in need can mitigate the most urgent needs.

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