Covid-19 Questions Guide

What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause disease in both animals and humans. In humans, various coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections that can range from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the most recently discovered infectious disease caused by the coronavirus. Both the new virus and the disease were unknown before the outbreak broke out in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. Some patients may have pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and appear gradually. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and are not unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without the need for any special treatment. About 1 in 6 people who get COVID-19 develop a serious illness and have trouble breathing. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of the people who have contracted the disease have died. People with a fever, cough, and shortness of breath should seek medical attention.

How is COVID-19 spread?
A person can contract COVID-19 from contact with another who is infected with the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through droplets from the nose or mouth that are released when an infected person coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person, so other people can get COVID-19 if they touch these objects or surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. They can also be spread if they breathe in droplets spread by a person with COVID-19 by coughing or exhaling. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from someone who is sick. WHO is reviewing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 spreads and will continue to report updated results.

Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be transmitted through the air?
Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through contact with respiratory droplets, rather than through the air. See the previous answer to the question "How is COVID-19 spread?"

Is it possible to get COVID-19 from contact with a person who does not have any symptoms?
The main way of spreading the disease is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone when coughing. The risk of getting COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms is very low. However, many people who get COVID-19 have only mild symptoms. This is particularly true in the early stages of the disease. Therefore, it is possible to catch it from someone who, for example, only has a mild cough and does not feel sick. WHO is reviewing ongoing research on COVID-19 transmission period and will continue to report updated results.

Is it possible to get COVID-19 from contact with the feces of a person with the disease?
The risk of contracting COVID-19 from contact with the feces of an infected person appears to be low. Although initial investigations suggest that the virus may be present in some cases in faeces, spread by this route is not one of the characteristic features of the outbreak. WHO is studying ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 spreads and will continue to report on the new results. However, it is a risk and is therefore one more reason to wash your hands frequently, after using the bathroom and before eating.

Should I be concerned about COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 are generally mild, especially in children and young adults. However, they can also be serious, requiring hospitalization of around one in five infected. Therefore, it is quite normal to worry about the effects that the COVID-19 outbreak may have on us and our loved ones.

This concern should help us to adopt protective measures for ourselves, our loved ones and the communities where we live. The main and most important measure is regular and thorough hygiene of the hands and the respiratory tract. Second, it is important to stay informed and follow the advice of local health authorities, such as those regarding travel, commuting, and events where large numbers of people may gather.

Who is at risk of developing a serious illness?
We still have a lot to learn about how COVID-2019 affects humans, but it appears that older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes) develop severe cases of the disease with more more often than others.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?
No. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, only against bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work against it. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used to treat a bacterial infection as directed by a doctor.

Are there medications or therapies that prevent or cure COVID-19?
Although some Western, traditional, or home remedies can provide comfort and ease the symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medications can prevent or cure the disease. The WHO does not recommend self-medication, particularly with antibiotics, to prevent or cure COVID-19. There are several ongoing clinical trials with western and traditional medicines. WHO will provide updated information as soon as the results of the clinical trials are available.

Is there a vaccine, medicine, or treatment for COVID-19?
Not yet. To date, there is no specific vaccine or antiviral drug to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected must receive health care to alleviate symptoms. People with severe cases of the disease should be hospitalized. Most patients recover with the help of supportive measures.

Possible vaccines and different specific drug treatments are being investigated. There are ongoing clinical trials to put them to the test. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 are to wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth with your elbow or a tissue when coughing, and keep a distance of at least 1 meter ( 3 feet) with people who cough or sneeze.

Are COVID-19 and SARS the same?
No. The genome of the virus that causes COVID-19 and the one responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are similar, but not the same. SARS is more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. Since 2003, there have been no SARS outbreaks anywhere in the world.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?
If you do not have the characteristic respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 (especially cough) or if you do not care for a person who may have contracted this disease, it is not necessary to wear a clinical mask. Remember that disposable masks can only be used once, and also keep in mind that if you are not sick or don't care for someone who is, you are wasting a mask. The world's stocks of masks are running low, and the WHO urges them to be used wisely.

The WHO advises making a rational use of clinical masks so as not to waste unnecessarily or misuse valuable utensils (see the section When and how to use a mask).

The most effective measures against COVID-19 to protect yourself and others are: wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth with your elbow or with a tissue when coughing, and keep a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) with people who cough or sneeze. For more information in this regard, the basic protection measures against the new coronavirus can be consulted.