Coronavirus FAQs: All you need to know about the new pandemic COVID-19

Last Updated : 21 March 2020, 22:25 IST
Last Updated : 21 March 2020, 22:25 IST
Last Updated : 21 March 2020, 22:25 IST
Last Updated : 21 March 2020, 22:25 IST

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As we try to bring you the latest updates on Coronavirus as the disease (COVID-19) is spreading, we realised that some of the basic questions are yet to be answered. DH has collated data from trusted sources like WHO and some of the leading scientific journals to answer some of the frequently asked questions.

Starting with:

What is COVID-19?

It is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered Coronavirus (one among a family of viruses related to each other genetically some of which caused MERS and SARS). The new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Common symptoms

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 infected people don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. People with fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing should seek medical attention.

How the disease spreads

Through small droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person when he/she coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces. Other people 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.

How do I protect myself?

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing 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. Most importantly, avoid touching your face. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spreading and will continue to share updated findings.

Soap or sanitiser?

Experts have said that thorough washing of hands is still the best way to beat coronavirus compared with sanitisers. Some say the chemical molecules ‘kill’ the virus, others say soap only removes bacteria. Either way, it is better than sanitisers. Also note that some sanitisers don’t work against Coronavirus as they contain less than 60% alcohol.

How many people recover after catching the virus?

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty in breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

Important: Recovery and 'Full recovery'

Four patients with COVID-19 who met the criteria for hospital discharge or discontinuation of quarantine in China had positive RT-PCR test results 5 to 13 days later. These findings suggest that at least a proportion of recovered patients still may be virus carriers.

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. Those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illnesses should be hospitalised.

Are there any medicines that can prevent or cure COVID-19?

While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines for Covid-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines. WHO will update the information as clinical findings are available.

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

No. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. Some are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19. Some experts are trying to find a new approach.

Can the virus be transmitted through air?

Studies to date suggest the virus is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

WHO says it's not certain on how long the virus survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (a type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

One study says it will remain on inanimate surfaces for up to 9 days. Surface disinfection with 0.1% sodium hypochlorite or 62–71% ethanol significantly reduces coronavirus infectivity on surfaces within 1 min exposure time.

Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?

Human to animal transmission of the virus has been reported. There is no evidence till now that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs spread the virus.

Can a person without symptoms spread the virus?

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

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, spread through this route is not a main feature of the outbreak.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. A disposable face mask can only be used once. If you are not ill and not looking after someone who is ill then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks. So WHO urges people to use masks wisely.

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

Before touching the mask, clean hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Take the mask and inspect it for tears or holes. Orient which side is the top side and ensure the proper side of the mask faces outwards. Place the mask on your face. After use, 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. Perform hand hygiene.

Is it safe to receive a package from an 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 temperatures is also low.

Clearing screening at the airport is not final.

Because of the long incubation period (over 14 days), a patient may not show symptoms up to a week after catching the virus. So clearing the screening process is not the end, one needs to self report the moment s/he develops the symptoms. For details, click here

For the latest situation report, click here.

Four new countries/territories/areas (Bolivia [Plurinational State of], Jamaica, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) have reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

If you are working with a school college or running them yourself, here are some tips are given by WHO and UNICEF.

Published 13 March 2020, 08:57 IST

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