Frequently asked questions about coronavirus infections

What are coronaviruses?

The coronaviruses belong to a large family of viruses that can cause various infections, from simple flu-like infections with mild symptoms to serious illnesses such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

What are the symptoms of coronavirus infection in humans? 

Symptoms depend on the individual virus, but the most common agents that attack humans cause respiratory infections and fever. In severe cases, the infection can lead to pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), renal failure and, in the worst case, death.

Can corona viruses be transmitted from person to person?

Yes, some corona viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, can be transmitted from person to person; usually as a result of closer contact with an infected patient, e.g. at home, at work or in practice or hospital.

Can humans get infected from an animal with the new SARS-CoV-2 corona virus?

Numerous studies have shown that both the SARS coronavirus and the MERS coronavirus are derived from animal viruses that have become pathogenic for humans. However, numerous known animal corona viruses do not cause any disease in humans. At te present time, there is no evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 corona virus could be transpitted to humans from pets.

Washing hands can really protect you from a corona virus infection?

Washing and disinfecting hands are the pillars in preventing infection. You should wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds (better 40-60) with soap and water. If no water an no soap are available, special disinfectants for hands with an alcohol content of at least 60% can be used. The virus penetrates the human body through the eyes, nose and mouth. You should avoid touching them with unwashed hands.

Frequently asked questions about new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections

What is a new coronavirus? And what is the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

A new corona virus is a new descendant of the coronavirus family that had no previously been identified in humans. The new coronavirus, whose scientific name is SARS-Co-V-2, is an RNA virus that is encased by a capsule and half capsule made of proteins in form of a crown.It belongs to the large family of coronaviruses and is genetically assigned to the genus betacoronavirus, derived from the B series of the subgenus Sarbecovirus as well as from to strains of non-human-SARS-like strains. In humans, SARS-Co-V-2 can trigger the disease known as COVID-19.

Why is the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus occur?

The occurrence of new viruses pathogenic to humans, which were previously only found in animals, is a very well-known phenomenon, which is referred to as spillover. It is believed that that new corona virus SARS-CoV-2was also created in this way. The scientists are currently trying to find out which animal species has transmitted the virus to humans.

Who is at increased risk of developing COVID-19?

People at risk of COVID-19 are people who have been in a risk area during the last 14 days or who have been in contact with infected or potentially infected people or medical personal who has treated infected patients.

How long is the incubation period (time from the infection until the first symptoms appear) of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

We have more and more information about infection with SARS-CoV-2 and the course of disease of COVID-19. It is currently estimated that the incubation period varies between 2 and 14 days, but longer periods also have been reported (up to 27 days).

Is there a risk for medical personnel to become infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

Yes, medical personnel are at higher risk because they come into contact with patients more often. In the first phases of an epidemic, they can come in contact more often with patients who are potential carriers of the virus without knowing the condition and therefore taking the appropriate protective measures. The World Health Organisation recommends that medical personnel systematically adopt appropriate preventive behavioral measures.

The new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus affects only older people or are younger people also at risk?

Elderly people and people with severe previous and concomitant diseases are more at risk of developing severe disease courses when infected with the virus. However, healthy people of all ages can also become infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and develop COVID-19.

How can you differentiate between coughing a simple flu infection and coughing from the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

The risk of having this infection is greater if you have been exposed to the new coronavirus, which occurs in some areas of the world and in some parts of the country. The appearance of symptoms can mean that a person has COVID-19 if he or she has been in one of the risk areas for the last 14 days., if they have come into contact with infected or potentially infected people, or if he or she have been in a medical facility where infected people have been treated, or worked there. Other viruses are currently circulating, in particular the flu virus. If fever ad symptoms of the respiratory tract occur in absence of the above mentioned risk factors, you should contact medical emergency services or your family doctor. If, on the other hand, you think you may have been infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, you should contact one of the free local numbers provided by the Ministry of Health in your country . In Italy contact the free number 1500 (24 hours) or 112 or 118. In Germany 116 117, in Switzerland 058 463 00 00.

Does infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus always lead to pneumonia?

No, infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can lead to mild symptoms,  flu-like symptoms and, in the minority of cases, to serious illnesses such as pneumonia. At this point, it must be pointed out that the data currently available to us are based on inpatient cases that represent the more severe courses, so that the number of more difficult courses can be overestimated.

Can a conventional blood sample or other test be used to determine whether you have been infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

No. There are currently no commercially available kits for the detection of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Evidence must be provided by special regional authorized laboratories. You can find out which they are in your region and city by regional health offices. If you have been in one of the risk areas, have had contact with potentially or infected people, or have been or are working in a medical facility in which infected patients or patients affected by COVID-19 have been treated in the past 14 days, you can contact the local numbers provided by the Ministry of Health to get further information on where and how to perform the test. In Italy you can call the free number 1500, alternatively 112 or 118. In Germany 116 117 or 112, in Switzerland 058 463 00 00.

What do I do if I have symptoms of a respiratory infection or if I am afraid of being infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus? Do I have to call the emergency number or go the hospital or is ist enough to contact my family doctor? 

If, as described above, you have been exposed to the risk of a possible infection, the first thing you should do is to contact one of the above-mentioned dedicated numbers. These numbers are generally free of charge in all countries and are active 24 hours. There you will get advice and further information how to proceed.

Can people without disease signs transmit the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

Based on the data currently available to us, according to the World Health Organisation, the virus is transmitted through close contact with people with symptoms. But it cannot be ruled out that, in rare cases, even people without symptoms or with only very slight symptoms can transmit the virus in the prodromal stage (shortly before the onset of the first symptoms).

Can you eat in a Chinese restaurant?

According to the current knowledge, there is no evidence that infection can occur via food.

Can then new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus be transmitted via products made in China?

No, there is no evidence that the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can be transmitted through products made in China or elsewhere. Depending on the surface condition, the virus can survive outside the body only for a few hours to a maximum of a few days.

Is it true that the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can be transmitted via the handles on the bus?

Since you can be infected, even with other pathogens, by touching contaminated objects, you should wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water after touching potentially dirty surfaces before touching eyes, nose or mouth.

Is ist dangerous to receive a letter or parcel from China or another risk area?

No, people who receive letters or parcels from China or other risk areas are not at risk of infection. The virus can survive on objects outside the body for only few hours to a maximum of a few days, depending on the surface condition.

Can pets spread the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

Currently there is no evidence that pets may be infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. But it is always advisable to wash your hands carefully after each contact with the pets, also to avoid the transmission of other pathogens.

Is there a vaccination against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

No vaccine against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is currently available. When a new disease occurs, it takes time to develop an appropriate vaccine. It may take several years before the application.

How much time will it take for the vaccine against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to be available?

The process fo the development of a corresponding vaccine were activated with the highest priority. Nevertheless, the experts agree that a minimum of two years will be probably pass before a sufficient vaccine will be available to the population.

Can regular nasal irrigation with saline protect against infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

No, there is no evidence that regular nasal irrigation with saline protects against infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Can regular consumption of garlic protect against infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

Garlic is a healthy food that has antimicrobial properties. However, there is no scientific evidence that eating garlic can protect against infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Do vaccinations against pneumonia protect against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

No, vaccination against various types of pneumonia, such as Pneumococcal vaccination or vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib) do not offer any protection against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Nevertheless, these vaccinations are indicated for the corresponding risk groups for an infection with these pathogens.

Do antiviral drugs protect against infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 corona virus?

We currently have no scientific evidence that taking antiviral drugs protects against infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Is there a special therapy for the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

We currently have no therapies available for the infection with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The therapy is symptomatic in the sense that the signs of the disease, especially the respiratory problems, are treated and recovery is promoted. Various antiviral drugs are currently being tested in inpatients, e.g. medicines that are available to us in HIV therapy.

Do antibiotics work in the prevention and treatment of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?

No, antibiotics have no effect on viruses, but only on bacteria. The new SARS-CoV-19 coronavirus is a virus and therefore antibiotics should not be used preventively or during treatment, except in the cases of any accompanying bacterial infection.