- On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan, China. The name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019- nCoV”.
- There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practices external icon for naming new human infectious diseases.
COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and may different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people. This occurred with MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, and now with the virus that causes COVID-19.
- 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, sneezes or talks.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
- Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
- Maintaining good social distance (about 6 feet) is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- There is no evidence that companion animals, like dogs and cats, can spread the new coronavirus to people. Jason Villano, D.V.M., M.S., M.Sc., a veterinary expert at Johns Hopkins, says, “The recent reports of a dog in Hong Kong testing positive for a ‘low level of infection’ of the new coronavirus does not mean that the dog actually was infected with the virus or can transmit it. The test used can detect even small amount of viral particles, and that further testing needs to be performed to confirm infection.”
- Likewise, there have not been any reports of companion animals becoming sick with COVID-19. Because this is a new virus, experts recommend good hygiene when handling or caring for your pets. Wash your hands before and after interacting with animals, and avoid kissing them or letting them lick you or share your food. People ill with COVID-19 should let someone else take care of their animals. If this isn’t possible, patients should wear a mask while looking after their pet.
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. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus. CDC recommends people practice frequent “hand hygiene,” which is either washing hands with soap or water or using an alcohol-based hand rub. CDC also recommends routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
It is not yet known whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.
Can the virus be spread through food, including restaurant take out, refrigerated or frozen packaged food?
- Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day use a tissue to cover your coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.
- It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, 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.
- In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.
No. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs. There is much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients also have body aches, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. If you have a sore throat and think you have been exposed to the new coronavirus, contact a health care provider by phone and discuss your risk.
Hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. Testing results may be helpful to inform decision making about who you come contact with. Decisions about testing are at the discretion of your own country.
In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected. For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.
- Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- People aged 65 years and older
- People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, especially when it’s not well controlled, including:
- People with chronic lung disease
- People with serious heart conditions
- People who are immunocompromised
- People with severe obesity (BMI >= 40)
- People with diabetes
- People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- People with liver disease
There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus right now. Scientists have already begun working on one, but developing a vaccine that is safe and effective in human beings will take many months.
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.
- Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. 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 mask.
- 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
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. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings are available.