Q&A on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

With most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). With COVID-19, however, there have been reports of spread from an asymptomatic infected patient to a close contact. Recent studies suggest that asymptomatic (or pre-symptomatic) patients may indeed be driving the rapid expansion of the disease.

Patients may remain contagious up to two weeks after the remission of symptoms. Stool and sputum samples remained RNA- positive over even longer periods, in spite of full resolution of symptoms.

For confirmed COVID-19 cases, reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms mostly include :

  • Fever (>80% of the patients)
  • Cough (>80%)
  • Shortness of breath (31%)
  • Muscle ache (11%)

Currently, there is no specific medicine or vaccine for COVID-19 and no medicines or vaccines have been fully tested for safety and efficacy.
At present, antiviral therapy is mainly used, as well as symptomatic and supportive treatment based on the clinical condition of the patient. Supportive treatments include oxygen therapy, hydration, fever/pain control, and antibiotics in the presence of bacterial co-infection.

For mild cases in the community, patients are advised to stay home in isolation, except for patients who may be at higher risk of developing severe forms of the disease, including older adults (>65 years old in some countries, >70 in others), people with underlying conditions (such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases such as COPD, or cancer) and patients with compromised immunity (congenital or acquired).

Self-isolation means avoiding situations where you could infect other people. This means all situations where you may come in contact with others, such as social gatherings, workplaces, schools, child care/pre-school centres, universities, faith-based gatherings, aged care and health care facilities, prisons, sports gatherings, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping malls, and all public gatherings.

  • Avoid long stays in the pharmacy/supermarket.
  • Avoid visiting the pharmacy/supermarket if you are elderly or have co-morbidities.
Whenever possible, such patients should ask a family member, a friend or a neighbour to go to the pharmacy/supermarket instead of them.

Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures to limit spread of certain respiratory diseases, including COVID-19, in affected areas. However, the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection and other equally relevant measures should be adopted.
If worn properly, a facemask helps block respiratory secretions produced by the wearer from contaminating other persons and surfaces. If masks are to be used, this measure must be combined with hand hygiene and other infection and prevention control measures to prevent the human-to- human transmission of COVID-19.

  • Remember, a mask should be used by health workers, care givers, and individuals with respiratory symptoms, such as fever and cough.
  • 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 (where the metal strip is).
  • Ensure the proper side of the mask faces outwards (the coloured side).
  • Place the mask to your face. Pinch the metal strip or stiff edge of the mask so it moulds to the shape of your nose.
  • Pull down the mask’s bottom so it covers your mouth and your chin.
  • After use, take off the mask; 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.
  • Discard the mask in a closed bin immediately after use.
  • Perform hand hygiene after touching or discarding the mask – Use alcohol-based hand rub or, if visibly soiled, wash your hands with soap and water.

Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Minimal information is available regarding COVID-19 during pregnancy. Intrauterine or perinatal transmission has not been identified. There is no laboratory evidence of transmission of the virus to the neonate. However, two neonatal cases of infection have been documented.

In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk; however it is not known whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk. Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses. Given low rates of transmission of respiratory viruses through breast milk, the World Health Organization states that mothers with COVID-19 can breastfeed.

For the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, there is reason to expect that, like other betacoronaviruses, it may transmit somewhat more efficiently in winter than summer, although the mechanism(s) responsible are unknown. The size of the change is expected to be modest, and not enough to stop transmission on its own.

Yes. 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.

Regularly washing your bare hands offers more protection against catching COVID- 19 than wearing rubber gloves. You can still pick up COVID-19 contamination on rubber gloves. If you then touch your face (mouth, nose or eyes), the contamination may infect you.

No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.

No, it does not. There is no evidence that using mouthwash will protect you from COVID-19. Some brands or mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva in your mouth. However, this does not mean they protect you from COVID-19.

No, it does not. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with COVID-19.