Frequently asked questions about COVID-19
General Q&A about COVID-19
What is SARS-CoV-2? What is COVID-19?
Where do coronaviruses come from?
Is this virus comparable to SARS or to the seasonal flu?
See the situation updates for the latest available information:
Situation update for the EU/EEA and the UK - https://bit.ly/34jw1d8
Situation update worldwide - https://bit.ly/2ViskAy
What is the mode of transmission? How (easily) does it spread?
When is a person infectious?
The infectious period may begin one to two days before symptoms appear, but people are likely most infectious during the symptomatic period, even if symptoms are mild and very non-specific. The infectious period is now estimated to last for 7-12 days in moderate cases and up to two weeks on average in severe cases.
How severe is COVID-19 infection?
Preliminary data from the EU/EEA (from the countries with available data) show that around 20-30% of diagnosed COVID-19 cases are hospitalised and 4% have severe illness. Hospitalisation rates are higher for those aged 60 years and above, and for those with other underlying health conditions.
What are the travel restrictions in the European Union?
Travel has been shown to facilitate the spread of COVID-19 from affected to unaffected areas. Travel and trade restrictions during a public health event of international concern (PHEIC) are regulated under the International Health Regulations (IHR), part III.
What precautions should I take if I need to travel?
Travellers should adhere to strict hygiene measures, wash hands with soap and water regularly, and/or use alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Touching the face with unwashed hands should be avoided. Travellers should avoid contact with sick persons, in particular those with respiratory symptoms and fever. It should be emphasised that older people and those with underlying health conditions should take these precautionary measures very seriously. Travellers who develop any symptoms during or after travel should self-isolate; those developing acute respiratory symptoms within 14 days upon return should be advised to seek immediate medical advice, ideally by phone first to their national healthcare provider.
What is the risk of infection when travelling by plane?
Why are people not being checked for COVID-19 at the airport when arriving from areas of local or community transmission?
There is evidence that checking people at the airport by reading their skin temperature (known as entry screening) is not very effective in preventing the spread of the virus, especially when people do not have symptoms. It is generally considered more useful to provide those arriving at airports with clear information explaining what to do if they develop symptoms after arrival.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection
Are some people more at risk than others?
Elderly people above 70 years of age and those with underlying health conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer) are considered to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms. Men in these groups also appear to be at a slightly higher risk than females.
Are children also at risk of infection and what is their potential role in transmission?
Children make up a very small proportion of reported COVID-19 cases, with about 1% of all cases reported being under 10 years, and 4% aged 10-19 years. Children appear as likely to be infected as adults, but they have a much lower risk than adults of developing symptoms or severe disease. There is still some uncertainty about the extent to which asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic children transmit disease.
What is the risk of infection in pregnant women and neonates?
Is there a treatment for the COVID-19 disease?
When should I be tested for COVID-19?
Where can I get tested?
If you are feeling ill with COVID-19 symptoms (such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle pain or general weakness), it is recommended that you contact your local healthcare services online or by telephone. If your healthcare provider believes there is a need for a laboratory test for the virus that causes COVID-19, he/she will inform you of the procedure to follow and advise where and how the test can be performed.
Do persons suffering from pollen allergy or allergies in general have a higher risk to develop severe disease when having COVID-19?
How can we differentiate between hay fever/pollen allergy related respiratory symptoms and COVID-19 infection?
Table: comparison of common symptoms between common cold, hay fever and COVID-19
Should people who suffer from pollen allergy self-isolate if they develop typical hay fever symptoms?
No, there is no more reason for people suffering from pollen allergy to self-isolate if they develop their typical hay-fever symptoms than for anyone else. They should continue following the general guidance for physical distancing and seek medical advice if their symptoms get worse, if they develop fever or progressive difficulty breathing.
How can I avoid getting infected?
How can I avoid infecting others?
What is physical distancing and why and how should I do it?
What should I do if I develop symptoms of COVID-19?
Follow the guidelines of the public health authorities in your area on the steps to take or call the local COVID-19 helpline.
Are face masks effective in protecting against COVID-19?
If you are infected, the use of surgical face masks may reduce the risk of you infecting other people. On the other hand there is no evidence that face masks will effectively prevent you from becoming infected with the virus. In fact, it is possible that the use of face masks may even increase the risk of infection due to a false sense of security and increased contact between hands, mouth and eyes while wearing them. The inappropriate use of masks also may increase the risk of infection.
Is there a vaccine against the virus?
There are currently no vaccines against human coronaviruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. This is why it is very important to prevent infection and to take measures to contain further spread of the virus.
How long will it take to develop a vaccine?
The development of vaccines take time. Several pharmaceutical companies and research laboratories are working on vaccine candidates. It will, however, take months or years before any vaccine can be widely used, as it needs to undergo extensive testing in clinical trials to determine its safety and efficacy. These clinical trials are an essential precursor to regulatory approval and usually take place in three phases. The first, involving a few dozen healthy volunteers, tests the vaccine for safety, monitoring for adverse effects. The second, involving several hundred people, usually in a part of the world badly affected by the disease, looks at how effective the vaccine is in the field, and the third does the same in several thousand people.
Am I protected against COVID-19 if I had the influenza vaccine this year?
Influenza and the virus that causes COVID-19 are two very different viruses and the seasonal influenza vaccine will not protect against COVID-19.
Post, Food, Animals
What is the risk of getting COVID-19 from packages delivered through the postal system?
A recent study published by The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reported that the causal agent of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is able to persist for up to 24 hours on cardboard, in experimental settings (e.g. controlled relative humidity and temperature). In practice however there is no evidence of the infection ever being transmitted through contaminated packages that are exposed to different environmental conditions and temperatures.
Are people working in the supply chain including logistics, control services, retail, etc. at risk of getting COVID-19 by handling packages? What measures can be taken to reduce the risk of getting infected in this type of work setting?
People working in the supply chain, including logistics, control services, retail, etc. are not at greater risk to of getting COVID-19 as a result of managing packages. ECDC does not recommend any special measures at the supply chain over and above those addressed to the general public: frequent and thorough hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand disinfectants, keeping a distance from other employees, and not working if showing signs of respiratory symptoms.
Are couriers at risk of getting COVID-19 by handling packages? What measures can be taken to reduce the risk of getting infected in this type of work setting?
People working as couriers are not at greater risk of getting COVID-19 as a result of managing packages. Couriers delivering packages at homes are advised to keep a distance from the customer, use alcohol-based hand disinfectant frequently (and always before and after contact with a customer), and avoid working if showing signs of respiratory symptoms.
What is the risk of COVID-19 infection from food products imported from affected areas?
There has been no report of transmission of COVID-19 via food, and therefore there is no evidence that food items imported into the European Union in accordance with the applicable animal and public health regulations pose a risk for the health of EU citizens in relation to COVID-19. The main mode of transmission is from person to person.
What is the risk of COVID-19 infection from animals or animal products imported from affected areas?
There is no evidence that any of the animals or animal products authorised for entry into the European Union pose a risk to the health of EU citizens as a result of the presence of COVID-19.
What is the risk of COVID-19 infection from contact with pets and other animals in the EU?
Current research links COVID-19 to certain types of bat as the original source, but does not exclude the involvement of other animals. Several types of coronaviruses can infect animals and can be transmitted to other animals and people. There is no evidence that companion animals (e.g. dogs or cats) pose a risk of infection to humans, however there is one report from Hong Kong of a pet dog that had positive swabs and showed serological evidence that it was likely infected by its owner who got COVID-19. As a general precaution, it is always wise to observe basic principles of hygiene when in contact with animals.