What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a virus which was discovered in December 2019 in China, and has been identified as a member of the family of coronaviruses. COVID-19 has now spread globally.
What is the virus that cause COVID-19?
The virus which led to the COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2, which is similar to the virus causes SARS. It was identified in December 2019 in China and is a member of the family coronaviruses. The coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, most of which are harmless for humans. Two types of most commonly known coronaviruses are Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which can cause severe lung infections.
Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 needs cells of living beings to multiply itself. This virus targets cells in the lungs, and other cells in the respiratory system too. Cells infected by the virus will produce more virus particles, which can then spread to other people by coughing and sneezing, for instance.
Transmission and symptoms
How does the virus spread?
The main mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through infected respiratory droplets. The virus enters the human body through the mouth, nose or eyes. This can happen by breathing in infected droplets, or by touching with your hand a surface on which droplets have landed and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose. Hence, simple infection control measures such as hand-washing and cough and sneeze etiquette are effective and important for prevention.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Some patients may have muscular pains, headache, confusion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
If someone is infected but has no symptoms, is there a high chance to get infected?
The main way that the disease spreads is by means of respiratory droplets released by someone who coughs or sneezes. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone who has absolutely no symptoms is very low. Yet many COVID-19 people experience only mild or even very mild symptoms. So it's possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who may not feel ill.
Are people with low immune systems more vulnerable to COVID-19?
People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness. To boost your immune system, you need a balanced and proper diet, regular exercise, good personal hygiene, reduce stress and adequate rest. Taking vitamin C can help to boost your immune system. But too much of it is also a waste. 2000mg per day is more than enough for an adult. Otherwise, you may feel nauseated, have diarrhea or stomach cramps.
Can Pets carry and spread COVID-19?
There have been cases in which COVID-19 was detected from infected individuals on animals. There is currently no evidence that pets can be a source of COVID-19 infection. You should not abandon your pets under any circumstances. Wash your hand properly after touching your pets.
About the vaccines and treatments
Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?
Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no particular antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019 so far. Clinical trials are ongoing with some drugs, but the results will not be known for a while. As with other viral diseases, care is mostly supportive – that is to say, to relieve symptoms.
How is the testing done for the disease?
Medical staff will take swabs from your nose and/or deep in your throat and/or sputum from if you have a productive cough. The sample then gets tested in the laboratory. However, please remember that your doctor is the one to decide whether you should be tested for the virus or not. You will need to fit the reporting criteria in order to be tested, and that means you need to have: Severe Respiratory Disease + a contact with a confirmed case/OR history of travel to an area where confirmed case has been reported. Results usually come back in few hours, depending on where you are.
Can hand dryers, hair dryers,iron steamer or ultraviolet disinfection lamps kill the virus?
Viruses are very sensitive to heat. But it’s not guaranteed that household equipment that emit heat such as iron, steamer, and hair dryers can effectively kill the virus. Frequent handwashing is the key. And never use an ultraviolet disinfection lamp to sterilize your hands or other skin areas as UV radiation can irritate your skin.
About prevention measures
Can we steam or iron the used masks and reuse them again?
No. Please do not steam or iron a used mask. Masks are designed for one time use only. Wet or damp masks are no longer effective. Drying them is not going to restore their integrity as the filter has been damaged. Change your mask when it is damp or smells bad. Remember to discard your used mask into a covered bin, and wash your hands afterwards.
Can pneumonia vaccines or antibiotics protect us against the COVID-19?
Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, they do not work on viruses. Do not take antibiotics without a doctor’s order. Currently there are no vaccines and medications to prevent or treat COVID-19. Scientists are still developing the much-needed vaccines against this new coronavirus. However, vaccinations against respiratory illnesses, such flu and pneumonia, is highly recommended to protect your health.
How will I know if I am stressed or not?
It is normal if you haven’t realised that you are stressed. Our body is meant to deal with stress in short terms, however a long exposure to stress can have harmful effects both physically and mentally. Each one of us shows different symptoms of stress, so listen closely to what your body is trying to tell you. Some physical signs to look for are: low energy, headaches, body aches or tension, no appetite, insomnia. Signs of mental stress could be a sudden change in mood such as feeling angry or being irritated, worrying and feeling more anxious than usual constantly.
Do I need to seek professional help immediately when I am feeling stressed and helpless?
Experiencing physical and emotional reactions during an outbreak is expected as it helps you to protect yourself and other people around you. Simple self-care mechanisms, such as taking a breath, doing something that makes you happy, could help you to relax. However, if these simple steps are not helping you feel better and reactions start getting in your way of living your life, such as having difficulties in sleeping, losing appetite, you may consider seeking professional help.
I am worried about the outbreak but I am overwhelmed with all the information about COVID-19. How can I strike a balance?
In the face of the pandemic, getting to know more about the outbreak is much needed. However, do remember to give yourself a break from the avalanche of information. Allocate a time, for example 30 minutes, during the day specifically for getting the important updates to you. Then, try to turn off your news feeds or the notifications function of your devices to avoid being distracted and overwhelmed all the time. Keep a distance from what overwhelms you and select the source of information that is reliable and stick to that source.
I am afraid when I go out and when I see the commodity prices going up rapidly and some people still don’t wear masks. What can I do?
We are facing an unusual and unprecedented situation. It affects us one way or another. It is key for us to accept what is happening around us and understand that it is just a temporary situation. Try to focus on what you can control and learn what is beyond your control. Frequent hand-washing, cough etiquette, social distancing, and personal hygiene are just some of the preventive measures that you could practice that will keep the virus at bay. While we cannot change the outside world, we can have an influence on ourselves by practicing some simple self-care tips such as: taking a breath, taking a break and taking care. Taking care of your mental health is important to your overall well being.
I have tried to take a breath and do some relaxation exercises, why is my body still very tense? Which self-care coping mechanisms suit me well?
You are doing a great job by trying some relaxation tips and exercises. You probably know already that relaxation exercises, just like other intense exercises, need practice and persistence. If you want to have better results, some reminders here for your reference: relaxation needs practice, time, attention, motivation and a comfortable place. Remember, your muscles need time to get used to the rhythm.
Different people need different coping mechanisms. For more coping mechanisms, please visit: msf-seasia.org/18911
We are advised to stay at home and practice social distancing for several weeks now. I have to take care of my children and their home learning while I work from home. They also always request to go outside. We argued several times. What shall I do?
Social distancing and stay-at-home practices have compelled us to adapt to new circumstances and restrictions. Families face a new challenge of work-life balance in close quarters. Parenting flexibility is the key during this challenging period; whereas perfectionism (aka tiger moms and dads) is the enemy. It won’t be smooth or perfect, but there are some strategies you can use to make your new situation a little easier. For spouses, accept things that have already changed, split the parenting role and your work, keep yourself healthy and take this period as an opportunity to engage more with your children. When dealing with your children, set a tone of understanding and empathy, together establish your daily routine.
My neighbour is required to be home quarantined. I am very afraid that my family will be infected. Although we regularly clean and disinfect our door handles and our hands whenever we get back home, our worries remain. What can we do?
Your worries about your family’s health is normal because you care for them. It is common to be extra alert because of uncertainties, but it is important to remain calm, accept what is happening around you, and equip yourself and your family with the facts. There are reliable sources for someone in your situation that could help you. Right now preventive measures could avert unnecessary panic and as well as developing a growing stigma towards your neighbour.
It’s understandable that there is confusion, anxiety and fear, but sometimes overreactions could fuel harmful stereotypes and stigmatisation of others. Keep calm and continue to be positive and caring.