Reliable information is key to prevent and treat COVID-19

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic – Photo: Sebastiao Moreira/EFE
English 21/03/2020 11:12 Mexico City Newsroom/EL UNIVERSAL in English Actualizada 13:25
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On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak as an international emergency and on March 11, the WHO  declared the global COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

This new disease that originated in Wuhan, China by late 2019, is currently having a significant impact worldwide and given its recent origin, scientists and doctors are still performing the corresponding research to develop a vaccine against it.

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To understand and prevent COVID-19, it is of utmost importance to have information from reliable sources, such as the WHO, that is monitoring the outbreak and how it is affecting people all over the world.

Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions about the novel coronavirus that might be helpful during the pandemic.

What is a coronavirus?
According to the WHO, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can affect both animals and humans. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory infections, from the common cold to severe diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

How does COVID-19 spread?
This novel coronavirus 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.

You can also catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated objects or surfaces, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth, or by breathing in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.

Therefore it is important to stay over 1 meter away from a person who is sick.

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What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. There may also be aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

The symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell.

About 80% of patients recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Older people, and those with comorbidities like high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes, are more likely to develop a serious illness.

How likely am I to catch COVID-19?
According to the WHO, for most people in most locations, the risk of catching COVID-19 is still low. However, there are now places around the world (cities or areas) where the disease is spreading. For people living in, or visiting, these areas the risk of catching COVID-19 is higher.

Governments and health authorities are taking vigorous action every time a new case of COVID-19 is identified. Be sure to comply with any local restrictions on travel, movement, or large gatherings. Cooperating with disease control efforts will reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating 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.

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Are there any medicines or therapies that can prevent or cure COVID-19?
While some remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. Self-medication is not recommended as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines.

Is there a vaccine, drug, or treatment for COVID-19?
To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with a 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.

Is COVID-19 the same as SARS?
No. The virus that causes COVID-19 and the one that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003 are related to each other genetically but the diseases they cause are quite different.

SARS was 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?
Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. Disposable face masks can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so the WHO urges people to use masks wisely.

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

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Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?
While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.

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, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low.

Lastly, remember that the following measures are not effective against COVID-19 and can be harmful:

  • Smoking
  • Wearing multiple masks
  • Taking antibiotics

If you have a 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 healthcare provider.

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