1. What is a coronavirus?

    Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

2. What is COVID-19?

    COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

3. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

    Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

    The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

   

4. How is coronavirus transmitted?

    According to WHO and CDC[1,2], the other coronavirus (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), spread through respiratory route via droplets which can be transmitted through a sneeze or cough. This suggests that the mode of transmission of the novel coronavirus might be similar. Hence, transmission between people can occur through droplets, by coming in close contact with the patient or by sharing objects of personal use.

    However, the exact mode of transmission of the 2019 novel coronavirus is not known[2]. Initially, it was suggested that the virus might have spread from animal to person. But, with the increasing number of cases in people who were not exposed to an animal market, it is believed that person-to-person transmission is also possible. As the data is limited, there is no clear picture of how easily the virus spreads between people. Also, the fact that this new strain of the coronavirus is novel to humans, the information related to its signs, modes of transmission and the source of infection is very limited[2]. 

5. Can pets at home spread COVID-19?

     At present, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats can get infected with the virus and lead to transmission to humans[7]. However, it is always wise to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets to lower the risk of infection.

6. Are people outside China at risk of COVID-19?

    Although the virus originated in a small city in China, it is now rapidly spreading across the entire country. Moreover, several cases have been reported in 85 countries outside China such as the US, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Nepal, France, and Sri Lanka[1]. According to data from the WHO as on 5th March 2020*, 14768 cases have been confirmed in 85 countries outside China which takes the global count to 95333[1]. WHO has assessed COVID-19 as very high risk across the globe including China[1].

7. Can pets at home spread COVID-19?

     At present, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats can get infected with the virus and lead to transmission to humans[7]. However, it is always wise to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets to lower the risk of infection.

8. What can I do to protect myself from coronavirus?   

     These few simple everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including the COVID-19[2,5].

     – Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

     – Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

     – Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 

     – If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

     – Stay home when you are sick, but consult a doctor if you have fever, cough or breathing difficulty.

     – Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.

     – If you wear a mask, make sure it covers your mouth and nose and avoid touching it once it’s on.

     – Always discard a single-use mask after each use and wash your hands after removing it.

     If you have traveled to China since January 1, 2020, and you have fever, cough, or breathing difficulties, seek urgent medical attention and do inform your doctor about the travel history[6]. 

 9. What is the Indian Government doing to prevent coronavirus?

      The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India has issued a helpline number (+91-11-23978046) to seek any help or solve any query related to coronavirus[10]. The Government has also appealed to passengers who have traveled to China since 1st January 2020, to please come forward for self-reporting to the call center and visit the nearest health facility if experiencing fever, cough or breathing difficulties, and also inform their doctor about the travel history.

10. Can wearing a medical mask all the time protect against Novel Coronavirus?

       Simple medical masks can prevent your nose or mouth from coming in contact with infected droplets. But, not everyone needs to use a mask. WHO says that use masks only if you’re sick and have symptoms like cough or difficulty breathing. If you’re healthy and taking care of a person suspected of COVID-19 infection, you must wear a mask.

 

*Note: The numbers are as on 5th March 2020 and reported by the WHO