COVID-19: Questions and Answers on the Coronavirus

COVID-19 Questions and Answers on the Coronavirus
Our teams in the field will make every effort to help identify and refer infected individuals to health centres. Photo: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger, Columbia

1. What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s.1 Both animals and humans can be infected. It is rare for the virus to spread from animals to humans. In the past, this case has occurred in the outbreaks of SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and also applies to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The respiratory disease that causes the virus is called COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).

2. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection are:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough and runny nose
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Sore throat, headache and body aches as well as tiredness and fatigue can also be signs of infection. The course of the disease varies widely. Some patients may also experience gastrointestinal complaints or nausea. These symptoms are generally mild and begin mildly.

There are also infected people who do not develop symptoms. In most cases, however, mild symptoms appear.

Older people over the age of 60 or people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes or a weakened immune system are particularly at risk and are more likely to develop a severe course of the disease.

3. How is the virus transmitted?

The coronavirus is transmitted by droplet infection. This means that the viruses are primarily passed on through the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose. Infection can also occur through contact with the hands.

4. How long is the incubation period?

The incubation period is the time between the infection and the first appearance of the disease symptoms.

When infected with the coronavirus, the incubation period is up to 14 days. On average, however, it is 5 to 6 days.

5. How can I protect myself and prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

As with any respiratory infection, the basic hygiene rules must also be observed with the coronavirus. This includes thorough and regular hand washing with soap, sneezing or coughing in the crook of the arm or in a disposable towel and keeping a distance.

If you are afraid that you have contracted the virus, contact your family doctor or the health department by phone. In any case, we recommend taking the following precautions:

  • Keep up to date with the latest information from the World Health Organization (WHO) or national and local health authorities.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap is not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from people.
  • Do not leave home if you are sick or have the symptoms described above.
  • Sneeze and cough in a disposable towel or in the crook of your arm.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched.
  • Ventilate your rooms regularly.
  • Avoid sharing potentially contaminated items such as toothbrushes, cigarettes, cooking utensils, drinks, towels or bed linen.

6. How can COVID-19 be treated?

There is currently no vaccine against the virus. Depending on the course, inpatient treatment with breathing equipment is necessary. In mild cases, it is enough to maintain bed rest and drink a lot . The house must not be left for at least 14 days to avoid further infections.

7. What is a pandemic?

According to the Robert Koch Institute, a pandemic generally describes a worldwide epidemic . While the epidemic describes a temporally and locally limited spread of a disease, the virus occurs in a pandemic around the world. This leads to infection with new viruses , which cause serious illnesses and can be transmitted well from person to person. These new pathogens often appear for the first time in the human population, which is why the immune system has not yet been prepared and is therefore not adequately protected.

In the case of the coronavirus, the WHO declared the previous epidemic (local and temporary spread of a pathogen) a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The last pandemic was launched by the WHO in 2009 when the colloquial swine flu spread worldwide.

8. How dangerous is the coronavirus?

Whether the coronavirus takes a dangerous course varies greatly. People over the age of 60 and people with previous diseases of the heart or lungs or other basic medical diseases are particularly at risk. In severe cases, pneumonia and shortness of breath occur. The disease generally shows a mild course.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns, however, that the pandemic virus, which mainly causes comparatively mild symptoms in healthy people, can overload the health systems of a state in a limited period of time due to the high number of sick people. There is a particular danger in the Global South, in countries that don’t have strong health systems or the required medical equipment, like ventilators, masks, gloves and gowns.

With the number of confirmed cases rising each day, Action Against Hunger is deeply concerned about the effect that COVID-19 will have on those already suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Globally, 821 million people are undernourished, including 50 million children, and undernutrition significantly weakens immune systems – making it harder to fight off and recover from infections and diseases.

As the pandemic spreads, we are particularly alarmed at the prospect of a COVID-19 outbreak in areas where social distancing is impossible, such as crowded city neighbourhoods and refugee camps, and where access to healthcare and health facilities is hours away, such as remote areas of South Sudan or Guatemala. Many public health measures to stop the spread of disease, including the promotion of hand-washing and other hygiene practices, are significantly hindered by lack of access to clean water and soap.To stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, our teams are working around the clock.

We’re partnering with governments to set up COVID-19 quarantine facilities, rushing to procure medical supplies and equipment, strengthening the capacity of our staff and others, all while continuing to deliver lifesaving nutrition, food security, and water, sanitation, and hygiene programs. We are also educating people about the novel coronavirus and how to stop its spread via text messages, local radio stations, and community outreach. Funding is urgently needed to scale up this work to meet growing demands.

Only together can we win the global fight against diseases like COVID-19 and defeat hunger. Help us scale up to stop the spread and save lives.