Basic questions on COVID-19
What are Coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause infections in people. These infections usually affect the respiratory system and can be flu-like or develop into a more serious illness, such as pneumonia.
What is the New Coronavirus?
The new coronavirus, designated SARS-CoV-2, was first identified in December 2019 in China, in the city of Wuhan. This new agent has never previously been identified in humans. The source of the infection is still unknown.
The route of transmission is still under investigation. Person-to-person transmission has been confirmed and there is already infection in several countries and in people who had not visited the Wuhan market. The investigation continues.
Is COVID-19 the same as SARS-CoV-2?
No. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the new virus and stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus-2. There is another coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which was identified in 2002, this is called “SARS-CoV”, so the New Coronavirus is called “SARS-CoV-2”. COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) is the name of the disease and it means Coronavirus Disease 2019, referring to the year it was discovered.
What is the origin of the New Coronavirus?
According to information published by international authorities, the source of the infection is unknown and may still be active. Most cases are associated with a market in Wuhan (Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market), specific for food and live animals (fish, seafood and poultry). The market was closed on 1 January 2020. As the first cases of infection are related to people who frequented this market, the virus is suspected to be of animal origin, but there is no certainty. This is because infections have already been confirmed in people who had not visited this market. The investigation continues.
What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
Most infected people have mild to moderate symptoms of acute respiratory infection:
– Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
In more severe cases it can cause severe pneumonia with acute respiratory failure, kidney and other organ failure, and eventual death. However, most cases recover without sequelae.
How is it transmitted?
COVID-19 is transmitted through close contact with people infected with the virus, or contaminated surfaces and objects.
This disease is transmitted through droplets released from the nose or mouth when coughing or sneezing, which can directly reach the mouth, nose and eyes of anyone nearby.
Droplets can be deposited on objects or surfaces surrounding the infected person. In turn, other people can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands.
What is a community broadcast area?
When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, the health authorities conduct an epidemiological enquiry to understand, among other information, the source of infection. When this source cannot be identified, that is, who transmitted the virus, this is said to be an area of community transmissio
What is the incubation period?
The incubation period of the disease (time between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms) is estimated to be between 2 and 14 days. Transmission by asymptomatic (symptomless) persons is still under investigation.
Can a person without symptoms transmit COVID-19?
The risk of getting COVID-19 from someone without symptoms is very low. However, many infected people only have mild symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to contract the virus from someone who has only a mild cough, for example, and does not feel ill.Can children transmit COVID-19 infection and illness?
Yes, children infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who are incubating also transmit the disease. Because of the close proximity between children, close contact during play and sharing toys with droplets and secretions, they can be a major transmitter of COVID-19. As young children are vulnerable and do not yet have the capacity to defend themselves and make decisions about their own protection, adults should ensure the necessary care to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
It is unclear how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it appears to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) can persist on surfaces from a few hours to several days. This can vary depending on conditions, such as the type of surface, the temperature or humidity of the environment.
In our own home or in public spaces, the frequency of cleaning should be increased, precisely so that no virus accumulates on surfaces. Common household detergent and disinfectant should be used – it is sufficient to use bleach or alcohol. Can we share drinking glasses?
No – you should not share any personal items, including drinking glasses, with other people. The virus is transmitted through our mucous membranes (mouth, eyes and nose).
Can transmission happen through air or metal surfaces?
Contagion is not through the air, but through respiratory secretions or droplets that are expelled by an infected person and/or during invasive medical procedures that produce aerosols. The droplets that the person exhales can enter directly through the mouth, eyes or nose and cause infection.
Complying with the social distancing advised by the General Direction of Health or staying at home are good measures to prevent infection in this phase.
Metallic or other surfaces do not transmit the virus directly. They only transmit the virus if you touch a surface that is dirty or has respiratory secretions or droplets containing viral particles with your hands and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes. If surfaces are washed regularly, this contagion is avoided.
Testing and Treatment
Should I be tested for COVID-19? (updated to standard 004/2020)
If you develop an acute respiratory condition of cough (persistent or worsening of usual cough), or fever (temperature ≥ 38.0°C), or dyspnoea / breathing difficulty, you should call the SNS24 Line or dedicated telephone lines in Family Health Units or Personalised Health Care Units.
Following this contact and validation of the medical history, healthcare professionals will determine if testing for COVID-19 is required.
Is there a vaccine?
There is currently no vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. As a newly identified virus, research for its development is ongoing.
What is the treatment?
Treatment for infection with this new coronavirus is directed at the signs and symptoms that patients present.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?
No, antibiotics target bacteria and have no effect against viruses. SARS-CoV-2 is a virus and as such, antibiotics should not be used for its prevention or treatment. It will not work and may contribute to increased resistance to antimicrobials (antibiotics).
What are hygiene measures and respiratory etiquette?
In affected areas, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends hygiene measures and respiratory etiquette to reduce exposure and transmission of the disease:
-Respiratory etiquette: cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, with a tissue or with your forearm, never with your hands, and always throw the tissue in the bin;
Wash your hands frequently. You should wash your hands every time you blow your nose, sneeze, cough or after direct contact with sick people. Wash them for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”) with soap and water or with a 70% alcohol-based solution;
– Avoid close contact with people with respiratory infections;
-Avoid touching your face with your hands;
-Avoid sharing personal belongings or food that you have touched.
Who is at risk of COVID-19 disease?
The virus has no nationality, age or gender, so we are all at risk of contracting this new coronavirus.
Still, the people most at risk of serious disease from COVID-19 are the elderly and people with chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, diabetes and lung disease).
What should people at risk of severe disease from COVID-19 do?
If you are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, you should:
-Take daily precautions (e.g. respiratory etiquette measures), avoiding close contact with other people;
-Age away from sick people;
-Limit social contact and avoid crowds;
-Wash hands frequently.
If there is a cluster in your community, avoid close contact with people and, if possible, stay indoors. Watch out for signs and symptoms. If you become ill, stay at home and call SNS24.
Do I have to wear a mask to protect myself?
According to the current situation in Portugal, the use of a mask for personal protection is not indicated, except in the following situations:
-Persons providing care to persons suspected of being infected with COVID-19.
The Directorate-General for Health does not currently recommend the use of a protective mask for people who have no symptoms (asymptomatic).
Incorrect use of a mask can increase the risk of infection because it is incorrectly fitted or because of hand-to-hand contact with the face.
The mask also contributes to a false sense of security.
Wearing a mask also contributes to a false sense of security.
What care should I take when wearing a mask?
First of all, remember: you should only use a mask if you are indicated to do so. If indicated by the health professional, avoid cloth masks, which can accumulate residues or even infectious particles, increasing the risk of spreading the virus.
Before putting on your mask, wash your hands thoroughly. Make sure the mask fits snugly over your face and avoid touching it while wearing it. Change your mask when it is dirty or damp and wash your hands thoroughly before taking it off.
And remember: mask use is only appropriate if applied in conjunction with hand hygiene, breathing etiquette, surface cleanliness and social distancing.
Should I wear gloves to protect myself?
The use of gloves in the street is not effective. If worn inappropriately, gloves can be a vehicle for virus transmission rather than a means of protection. When not indicated, the use of gloves represents a waste of resources.
The most important thing to prevent transmission of the virus is to wash your hands frequently and whenever they are dirty.
When should I wear gloves?
Gloves should be worn when cleaning toilets or other surfaces with bleach or other disinfectants, when caring for a patient with COVID-19 or, if you are a healthcare professional, when performing procedures involving direct contact with non-intact skin, mucous membranes or bodily fluids.
What precautions should I take when preparing and cooking food?
Wash your hands thoroughly before and while cooking. Take care to wash raw food properly and cook and dish food at appropriate temperatures.
Do not share food or objects between people during preparation, cooking and consumption. At all times, adopt respiratory etiquette measures. Avoid contamination between raw and cooked food.
What precautions should I take if I am in isolation?
You should stay at home. Do not go to work, school or public places. Stay in your own room and avoid contact with others in common spaces. Do not share plates, glasses, cooking utensils, bed linen or other personal belongings.
When with others, wear a mask. Follow hand washing and respiratory etiquette recommendations. Monitor symptoms and put your waste in a waste bag.
What should the other members of the household take into account?
Contact with the person with symptoms should be avoided, especially if they belong to vulnerable groups: elderly, chronically ill, immunosuppressed and pregnant women. Preferably, a single person should take care of the sick person.
After contact with the patient or their living space, wash your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based solution. Disinfect taps, switches and door handles frequently, especially if the sick person uses communal spaces.
If I am in isolation, can I receive people at home?
No. Only people living with the person with COVID-19 should enter the accommodation. If urgent contact is needed with someone not living with the person in isolation, this should be done by telephone.