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FAQ – Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Starting from the beginning of 2020, a newly identified coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 is spreading the disease called COVID-19 across the globe. The World Health Organization has announced that COVID-19 is a pandemic. Read the following information to reassure yourself and learn more on how to protect yourself and others.

What is a coronavirus? What is COVID-19? 

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). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus called SARS-CoV 2 that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans. The outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?


Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. 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.

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 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.


How to prevent the spreading of COVID-19? How can I protect myself?

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include:

  • Regular hand cleaning, either with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water
  • Covering mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when coughing and sneezing
  • Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.
  • Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid travelling to places–especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.


What if I am in or have visited the places where COVID-19 is spreading?

  • Follow the standard recommendations to prevent infection spread
  • Self-isolate by staying at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low-grade fever (37.3 C or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover.
  • 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 travellers.

Are there any medicines to cure or prevent COVID-19? What about vaccines?


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, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines.

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 the supportive care provided in hospitals.


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. The disposable face mask 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 WHO urges people to use masks wisely. WHO advises rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and misuse of masks.


Can I get COVID-19 from my pets?


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. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.


Here are some additional facts on COVID-19 :

  • COVID-19 virus CAN be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates.
  • Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the new coronavirus.
  • The new coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites.
  • Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body WILL NOT kill viruses that have already entered your body.
  • Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, DO NOT provide protection against the new coronavirus.
  • There is NO evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus.
  • There is NO evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.

How long does the virus stay on surfaces?


It is safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported. 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.

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.

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).


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