How to protect yourself against COVID-19
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease has spread globally since 2019, resulting in the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. Common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Muscle pain, sputum production and sore throat are some of the less common symptoms. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure. The case fatality rate is estimated at between 1% and 5% but varies by age and other health conditions.
The infection is spread from one person to others via respiratory droplets, often produced during coughing. Time from exposure to onset of symptoms is generally between 2 and 14 days, with an average of 5 days. The standard method of diagnosis is by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) from a nasopharyngeal swab or sputum sample. Antibody assays can also be used, using a blood serum sample. The infection can also be diagnosed from a combination of symptoms, risk factors, and a chest CT scan showing features of pneumonia.
Recommended measures to prevent the disease include frequent hand washing, maintaining distance from other people and not touching one’s face. The use of masks is recommended for those who suspect they have the virus and their caregivers but not for the general public. There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19; management involves treatment of symptoms, supportive care and experimental measures.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Evidence of local transmission of the disease has been found in multiple countries across all six WHO regions.
Preventive measures to reduce the chances of infection in locations with an outbreak of the disease are similar to those published for other coronaviruses: stay home, avoid travel and public activities, wash hands with soap and hot water often, practice good respiratory hygiene and avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Social distancing strategies aim to reduce contact of infected persons with large groups by closing schools and workplaces, restricting travel and canceling mass gatherings.
According to the WHO, the use of masks is only recommended if a person is coughing or sneezing or when one is taking care of someone with a suspected infection.
Watch this short animation to learn more about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself against it.