14 common questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19, known as coronavirus disease 2019 or Coronavirus disease 2019, is an infection caused by a new type of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and is characterized by the appearance of flu-like symptoms, such as fever, pain headache and general malaise, in addition to having difficulty breathing.

This infection first appeared in China, but was quickly spread to several countries, and COVID-19 is now considered a pandemic. This rapid spread is mainly due to the easy way of transmitting the virus, which is through the inhalation of droplets of saliva and respiratory secretions that contain the virus and are suspended in the air.

Therefore, it is important that preventive measures are taken to prevent contagion and transmission, helping to fight the pandemic. Learn more about the coronavirus, symptoms and how to identify.

As it is a new virus, there is little information available and there are several doubts. The following are the main questions about COVID-19 to try to clarify each one:

1. Is the virus transmitted through the air?

The transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 happens mainly by inhaling droplets of saliva or respiratory secretions that are present in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, for example, or through contact with contaminated surfaces.

Therefore, to avoid transmission, it is recommended that people who have been confirmed with the new coronavirus, or who show symptoms that are indicative of the infection, wear protective masks to avoid passing the virus on to others.

There are no cases and no evidence that the new coronavirus can be transmitted through mosquito bites, such as what happens in the case of other diseases such as dengue and yellow fever, for example, being only considered that the transmission happens through inhalation of droplets suspended in the air that contain the virus. See more about the COVID-19 broadcast .

2. Who has no symptoms can transmit the virus?

Yes, mainly due to the disease incubation period, that is, the period between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms, which in the case of COVID-19 are about 14 days. Thus, the person may have the virus and not know it, and it is theoretically possible to transmit it to other people. However, most infections appear to happen only when the person starts coughing or sneezing.

Therefore, in the case of not having symptoms, but being included in a risk group or having had contact with people who have been confirmed with the infection, it is recommended that quarantine be performed, because in this way it is possible to check if there has been symptoms and, if so, prevent the virus from spreading. Understand what it is and how to quarantine it.

3. What is a risk group?

The risk group corresponds to the group of people who are most likely to develop serious complications of the infection mainly due to the decrease in the activity of the immune system. Thus, people who are in the risk group are older people, from the age of 60, and / or who have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), kidney failure or hypertension.

In addition, people who use immunosuppressants, who are undergoing chemotherapy or who have recently undergone surgical procedures, including transplants, are also considered at risk.

Although serious complications are more frequent in people at risk, everyone regardless of age or immune system is susceptible to infection, so it is important to follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. (WHO).

4. Is there a vaccine?

So far, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 and, therefore, it is important to adopt all preventive measures to avoid contagion and transmission of the virus. Even so, there are several researches under development with the objective of creating a vaccine against this virus, which can be useful for both fighting and preventing the disease.

Existing vaccines, including the flu and pneumonia vaccine, do not provide protection against COVID-19, since they were developed based on the genetic sequence of the viruses responsible for these diseases, which is different from the genetic sequence of SARS- CoV-2.

5. Antibiotic treats coronavirus?

Antibiotics are active only against bacteria and some fungi and parasites, having no effect on viruses. In addition, when antibiotics are used without medical advice, microbial resistance to antibiotics may be favored, in addition to decreased immune system activity, favoring the occurrence of other diseases.

The treatment for COVID-19 is done with supportive measures, such as hydration, rest and adequate food, and must be done in isolation to prevent transmission of the virus to other people. So far, no antivirals have been identified that act against the new type of coronavirus, however studies have been developed with the aim of identifying drugs that have action against COVID-19.

6. Is it safe to travel?

It is important to consult the travel destination guidelines, because some countries have adopted measures to prevent the transmission of the virus, and there may be an indication of mandatory isolation as soon as you arrive at the location, for example. In addition, some locations have indicated the closure of airports for international flights, also aiming to prevent the spread of the virus.

Airplanes, trains and buses do not normally have much air circulation and carry a large number of people, which could also favor transmission. Therefore, if travel is necessary and authorized by health agencies, it is important that precautionary measures are taken, such as covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your eyes and mouth and washing your hands hand with soap and water often.

Here’s how to wash your hands properly to decrease the risk of virus infection:

7. Can I be infected through an order?

According to WHO, the probability of having contact with the virus from an order that came from a country with a large number of cases is very low, because the order was most likely exposed to different conditions and variations in temperature and humidity , which could inactivate the virus. In addition, it is not yet known how long the new coronavirus is capable of remaining infectious on surfaces.

A study carried out in March 2020  [1]  by researchers from the United States suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is able to remain infectious on surfaces for days, mainly on plastic and stainless steel surfaces, with shorter survival time on cardboard , which is usually the material on which orders are shipped.

If there is suspicion that the package may be contaminated, even if the chance is low, you can disinfect the package with alcohol gel, in addition to washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

8. Can pets transmit the virus?

The transmission of COVID-19 from pets to people has yet to be proven. So far, what is known is that transmission occurs through the inhalation of droplets of saliva and respiratory secretions that are suspended in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, for example.

Although the first cases of infection were from animals to people, the related animals are wild animals, that is, they are not frequently found and were also in inadequate conditions in terms of temperature and hygiene.

9. Does homemade alcohol-gel work?

Although alcohol gel is widely used as a way to prevent contagion with infectious agents, including viruses, homemade gel alcohol does not necessarily have the same effectiveness. This is because in order for it to work properly, it is important to have an adequate concentration of alcohol capable of eliminating the infectious agent, in addition to some recipes of homemade gel alcohol that indicate the use of some substances that may favor the development of the microorganism. See more about alcohol gel and other types of antiseptics.

Therefore, to protect yourself it is important to use 70% alcohol-gel, both for hand hygiene as well as for disinfecting surfaces and objects, and washing your hands with soap and water on a regular basis. In addition, hand dryers or ultraviolet (UV) lights have no proven effect of inhibiting or eliminating the virus and therefore should not be used as a means of preventing COVID-19.

10. Do higher temperatures kill the virus?

So far there is no information to indicate the most suitable temperature to prevent the spread and development of the virus. However, the new coronavirus has already been identified in several countries with different climates and temperatures, which indicates that the virus may not be affected by these factors.

In addition, the body temperature is normally between 36ºC and 37ºC, regardless of the temperature of the water you bathe in or the temperature of the environment in which you live, and as the new coronavirus is related to a series of symptoms, it is a sign that manages to develop naturally in the human body, which has higher temperatures.

Diseases caused by viruses, such as colds and flu, happen more frequently during the winter, as people tend to stay longer indoors, with little air circulation and with many people, which facilitates the transmission of the virus between the population. However, as COVID-19 has already been reported in countries in which it is summer, it is believed that the occurrence of this virus is not related to the highest temperature in the environment, and can also be easily transmitted between people.

11. Vitamin C helps to protect against COVID-19?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that vitamin C helps to fight the new coronavirus. What is known is that this vitamin helps to improve the immune system, as it is rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals, preventing the occurrence of infectious diseases and being able to relieve the symptoms of the cold, for example.

Because it is rich in antioxidants, researchers in China [2] are developing a study that aims to verify whether the use of vitamin C in critically ill patients is able to improve the functioning of the lungs, promoting an improvement in the symptoms of infection, since this vitamin is able to prevent the flu due to its anti-inflammatory action.

However, there is still no scientific evidence to confirm the effect of vitamin C on COVID-19, and when this vitamin is consumed in excess there is a greater risk of developing kidney stones and gastrointestinal changes, for example.

To protect against coronavirus, in addition to having a diet that improves the activity of the immune system, giving preference to foods rich in omega-3, selenium, zinc, vitamins and probiotics, such as fish, nuts, oranges, sunflower seeds, yogurt , tomato, watermelon and unpeeled potatoes, for example. Although garlic has antimicrobial properties, it has not yet been verified whether it has an effect on the new coronavirus and, therefore, it is important to invest in a balanced diet. See what to eat to improve your immune system.

It is also important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid indoors and with lots of people, and cover your mouth and nose whenever you need to cough or sneeze. In this way, it is possible to avoid contagion and transmission of the virus to other people. Check out other ways to protect yourself against the coronavirus.

12. Does Ibuprofen worsen the symptoms of COVID-19?

A study by researchers from Switzerland and Greece in March 2020 [3] indicated that the use of Ibuprofen was able to increase the expression of an enzyme that can be found in the cells of the lung, kidneys and heart, which would make respiratory symptoms more serious. However, this relationship was based on only one study carried out in diabetics and taking into account the expression of the same enzyme, but present in cardiac tissue.

Therefore, it is not possible to state that the use of Ibuprofen is related to the worsening of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. See more about the possible relationship between the coronavirus and the use of Ibuprofen.

13. How long does the virus survive?

Research conducted in March 2020 by American scientists [1]  indicated that the survival time of SARS-CoV-2, responsible for COVID-19, varies according to the type of surface that is found and environmental conditions. Thus, in general, the virus can survive and remain infectious for about:

  • 3 days for plastic and stainless steel surfaces;
  • 4 hours for copper surfaces;
  • 24 hours, in the case of cardboard surfaces;
  • 3 hours in the form of aerosols, which can be released when an infected person nebulizes, for example.

Although it can be present on surfaces in its infective form for a few hours, this type of contagion has not yet been determined. However, it is recommended to disinfect surfaces that may contain the virus, in addition to making use of gel alcohol and washing your hands with soap and water regularly.

14. How long does it take to have the exam result?

The time between the collection of the sample and the release of the result can vary according to the type of exam that will be performed, and can vary between 15 minutes and 7 days. The results that come out in less time are those that are done through rapid tests, such as the immunofluorescence test and the immunochromatography.

The difference between these two is the sample collected: while in immunofluorescence a sample of the airways is used, which is collected through a nasal swab, the immunochromatography is made from a small sample of blood. In both tests, the sample comes into contact with the reagent and, if the person has the virus, it is indicated between 15 and 30 minutes, with the case of COVID-19 being confirmed.

The test that takes the longest to be released is the PCR, which is a more specific molecular test, considered the gold standard and which is done mainly to confirm the positive case. This test is made from a blood sample or a sample collected by nasal or oral swab, and indicates whether there is infection by SARS-CoV-2 and the number of copies of viruses in the body, indicating the severity of the disease.


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