Answers to Common Covid-19 Questions
Aside from COVID-19 itself, Filipinos are faced with the challenge of distinguishing verified information regarding COVID-19 from the plethora of fraudulent ones that are posted in social media or various websites. Those who have limited medical knowledge are especially at risk of following false COVID-19 prevention tips. For instance, on 10 March 2020, the International Business Times reported that at least 44 Iranians died due to alcohol poisoning. They fell prey to the rapidly spreading rumor of alcohol being effective in curing coronavirus. There were 36 deaths reported in Khuzestan, followed by seven in the northern region of Alborz, and then one in Kermanshah. Meanwhile, 200 Iranians were hospitalized in Ahvaz.
There are also posts circulating on social media claiming that COVID-19 is a biological weapon that aims to reduce the world’s population. Such posts incite prejudice and fearmongering. Increasingly, people need to educate themselves about the credibility of online sources, as there are some websites manned by trolls that resemble official ones. This chapter provides scientifically based answers to commonly asked questions regarding COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
Initially called 2019-nCoV Acute Respiratory Disease, COVID-19 is an infectious disease manifesting flu-like symptoms, such as dry cough, fever, fatigue, and shortness of breath. In some cases, infected people may develop pneumonia and multiple organ failure, which can lead to death. This disease is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new type of coronavirus only recently known to infect humans.
How worried should I be about getting sick?
COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. Everyone who is active socially is susceptible to contracting the COVID-19 virus. Chances of infection are even higher once communities have an outbreak. The infection leads to a generally mild illness for children and young adults unless they have conditions that weaken the immune system. But still, one out of five infected people will need hospital care. Not all infected people also experience symptoms. These carriers are called asymptomatic and carry about, placing the people around them at risk of infection. Currently, asymptomatic carriers are not being tested on a wide scale, thus the epidemic moves stealthily through the populace.
This information may indeed cause worry. But worry can be transformed to hope with the right information and consistent hygiene and social distancing practices. The Philippine government’s mandated quarantine measures are helpful in preventing the further spread of the disease. Follow social distancing guidelines, practice personal and social hygiene protocols, and disinfect your work and home environment.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is transmitted by infected people who shed the virus through respiratory droplets carried by their cough or exhalation up to a distance of two meters (six feet). If possible, people should avoid interacting with others. If you need to do so, place yourself at a two-meter distance from others. If you come into contact with high-touch surfaces, wash your hands thoroughly with soap. Refrain from touching your face, since your hands can be contaminated with droplets of the virus found on objects and surfaces. COVID-19 may also be caught directly from inhaling the droplets of an infected individual’s cough or exhalation, which is why social distancing is currently being practiced all over the world. The common symptoms of COVID-19 are dry cough, fatigue, and fever. However, some cases also report body pain, clogged nose, diarrhea, or sore throat.
Who are at higher risk of experiencing the severe and critical symptoms of COVID-19?
People with a weak immune system, such as older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or diabetes are prone to develop severe and critical symptoms. Smokers are also at risk due to the actual smoking habit and their possibly reduced lung capacity.
Should young people be worried about infection?
Yes. While older people are considered at more risk from coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned young people not to view themselves as “invincible.” Newborn children are also susceptible to the disease, while a one-year-old girl in Oriental Mindoro also tested positive. While the elderly with compromised immune systems and pre-existing illnesses are the most susceptible, young people who also share the same conditions may also become infected and wind up seriously ill. In addition, young carriers can also infect older loved ones such as their family and friends.
How is COVID-19 different from the flu or SARS?
Although COVID-19, influenza or flu, and SARS have similarities, they are entirely different diseases. All of them attack the respiratory system with overlapping symptoms and very similar means of transmission. The virus responsible for COVID-19 and SARS came from the family of coronaviruses. In contrast, the influenza virus belongs to the family of Orthomyxoviridae, another group of RNA-based pathogens.
Children are essential transmission drivers of flu, but COVID-19 is more risky among the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Up to date, COVID-19 appears more deadly than flu. In context, however, SARS was more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. The two coronaviruses also differ in their method of respiratory transmission. COVID-19 is transmitted in larger droplets compared to SARS.
The crude fatality rate from COVID-19 can range from as high as 12% to as low as 1%, depending on the country. This is because the denominator for computing this death rate is dependent on the number of reported cases of infection, which is dependent on the prevalence of testing of the population. One of the reasons for this high variability is because not all infections are confirmed by testing and many carriers are asymptomatic.
Presently, there are more than 20 vaccines in development along various stages. Scientists are working at breakneck speed around the world to obtain results of animal and human trials later in the year. But even if scientists can finally achieve development of a vaccine within twelve months, there is still the challenge of mass production. Realistically, a vaccine or drug would not be ready until at least the middle of next year.
You should wear a mask if you suspect that you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially cough or fever) or are looking after someone who may have been infected by the virus. A disposable face mask can only be used once and should be disposed off properly. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill, you may not need to wear a mask. If you are healthy, refrain from using one, so that you do not deplete the supply of someone like a nurse or a doctor who actually needs it. The most effective ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to distance yourself socially and to avoid unnecessary contact with people. If you are forced to leave your home, frequently wash your hands, cover your cough with the bend of the elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet) from people.
Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?
There have been reported isolated cases of two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium that tested positive from COVID-19 infection, but the WHO has maintained that there is presently no evidence that any pet can transmit the virus. As an extra precaution, patients with COVID-19 are still advised not to touch their pets.
Can warm climate eliminate COVID-19?
Human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 can occur regardless of a country’s climate. The World Health Organization states that the best way to protect oneself is to distance yourself and wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. And considering that the Philippines is now under enhanced community quarantine, it is best to remain at home if there is no essential task to be accomplished outdoors such as purchasing food or medicine.
Will a hot bath or shower protect me from COVID-19?
This alone will not be able to protect a person from COVID-19. In fact, the World Health Organization warns against taking an extremely hot bath or shower, as it would lead to burns. To reiterate, the best way to protect oneself is to distance yourself from other people and to wash hands frequently and thoroughly. In a community quarantine, social distancing must be observed at large as well. This means not leaving home, except for urgent needs such as purchasing food or medicine.
The coronavirus can live for as long as 17 days on surfaces. This was discovered by the US Centers for Disease Control when it did a study of the surfaces of the contaminated Diamond Princess cruise ship after all its passengers had disembarked. They discovered that the coronavirus was still alive on surfaces of cabins that had been occupied by both infected and healthy passengers on the ship. Another study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus can live for up to 3 hours in the air and up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.
Someone told me that gargling salt water and/or rinsing the nose with saline can fight off COVID-19.
The former is considered as a remedy for sore throat, while the latter is a remedy for the common cold. Both claims, however, are not backed up by any scientific evidence as measures against COVID-19.
Can a thermal scanner accurately detect all those infected with COVID-19?
A thermal scanner is only capable of detecting individuals with fever, which is one of the symptoms of COVID-19. However, not all carriers of the disease are symptomatic. Some studies have indicated that asymptomatic carriers, or those who DO NOT exhibit symptoms such as fever, cough, or fatigue, may be responsible for many more infections than is commonly believed. The World Health Organization states that “it takes between [two] and [ten] days” before symptoms develop. Thus, there are also asymptomatic carriers. These are infected individuals who do not exhibit any symptoms but are just as dangerous in spreading the disease.
What vaccine or medication should I avail so as to avoid being infected?
There still is no prescribed medication or vaccine that could protect you from COVID-19. Medical experts, however, recommend being vaccinated against respiratory illnesses such as the flu. The World Health Organization as well as other countries continues to work with medical experts in the development of a cure or a vaccine.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through mosquito bites?
There is no report confirming that COVID-19 can be acquired through a mosquito bite. So far, what is known is that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through large respiratory droplets, which are generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through the discharge from the nose or droplets of saliva.
Does COVID-19 originate from bats?
It is widely circulated that COVID-19 started when “patient zero” ate a bat soup from a seafood market and got infected, and he subsequently spread the infection in early December 2019 in Wuhan. However, the World Health Organization has not yet confirmed the source of the COVID-19 virus and its initial animal-to-human route of transmission. Recent studies indicate that more than 500 coronavirus strains have been circulating in bats in China. However, it remains unclear if eating bats can transmit the COVID-19 virus to humans.
Is COVID-19 an airborne disease?
In a normal setting, COVID-19 virus can only be transmitted through respiratory droplets and close contact. However, the World Health Organization reminded health workers on the precautionary measures to avoid exposure to COVID-19 while at duty. There are aerosol-generating procedures (AGP) performed in hospitals, such as intubation and manual ventilation, that heighten the risk of health workers via aerosol transmission. Aerosols or fine air particles can carry the virus to the air, especially in an enclosed room.
The Philippine Department of Health has stated there is no scientific evidence that backs up the claim that eating banana or garlic can help in the prevention and cure of COVID-19. Although they nourish the body, there are no studies suggesting that banana and/or garlic have properties that can alleviate the COVID-19 virus.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?
Unfortunately, antibiotics do not work against viruses. They only work on bacterial infections, and since COVID-19 is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
How can my family reduce the risk of getting COVID-19?
The risk level of your home depends on the epidemiological spread of COVID-19. However, it is better to observe strict personal and environmental hygiene to protect our homes, whether or not our community already has a reported infection. Asymptomatic cases in the Philippines are not widely known due to limited testing of the populace.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, clear the throat, or cough. If tissue is not available, cough into your elbow.
- Avoid touching one’s mouth, eyes, and nose.
- Frequently wash your hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Use tissue paper or clean cloth to dry your hands. If handwashing is not possible, use alcohol or alcohol-based sanitizer to keep your hands clean.
- Do not leave your home except to buy essential items. Make sure to give the task to a capable household member who is not at high risk for COVID-19 infection. The pregnant, elderly, or someone with high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or diabetes should be kept safely at home.
- Change into new clothes and take a bath once you arrive home from the market, pharmacy, or hospital or after you have been exposed outside.
Keep your family healthy
- Rest well. Make sure that you have enough sleep, and you feel rested. If possible, divide household tasks among family members during the quarantine period to provide everyone a chance to rest.
- Keep a balanced and healthy diet. Always have a variety of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Make sure to properly prepare and cook all food.
- Perform physical exercises at home.
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water.
- Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol.
- For pregnant women, continue with your scheduled prenatal checkups and observe your body for unusual signs requiring immediate medical attention.
- For the elderly, try to get some sunlight, even just for 10 minutes.
- For those at risk, strictly follow the medications and lifestyle changes prescribed by your physician. Find ways to keep a healthy lifestyle even while at home and avoid places frequented by many people.
Keep your surroundings clean and disinfected
- Always disinfect common areas and commonly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, tables, mobile phones, among others.
- Use bleach diluted in water or 70% alcohol to disinfect your home.
- Use a designated trash bin for used tissues, face masks, and disposable cleaning cloths. Seal the trash bin immediately.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Observe and take note of common COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients report experiencing aches and pains, nasal congestion, and less frequently a runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhea. Seek medical attention once a person starts experiencing a combination of fever, continuous dry cough, and breathing difficulty. Aside from hospitals, many local doctors now provide online medical consultations to avoid crowding the hospitals. During the consultation, doctors would ask essential questions, such as previous travel history and pre-existing conditions, to determine if the patient would be advised for testing and hospitalization.
What should I do in case of an outbreak in my community?
First of all, stay calm. It also helps to be prepared prior to such events. Follow the steps below:
- Stay home and isolate yourself if you are sick. If you are healthy, stay in a different room to keep away from people who are sick.
- Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation. Be aware of community activities and protocols in your area.
- Continue practicing proper hygiene and sanitation. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains 70% alcohol. Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily using a regular household disinfectants or bleach diluted in water.
- Work from home or take a leave if you or someone in your office or work area gets sick with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Stay in touch with others by phone, social media, or email. If you have a chronic medical condition and live alone, ask family, friends, and health care providers to check on you during an outbreak. Stay in touch with family and friends, especially those at increased risk of developing severe illness, such as older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions.
What hotlines should I take note of during the quarantine period?
- Department of Health (Philippines) COVID-19 Hotline: (02) 894-26843
- For PLDT, Smart, Sun, and TnT Subscribers: 1555
- Philippine Red Cross: 1158
- Joint Task Force CV SHIELD Command Center, Philippine National Police Command Center
- Globe: 09173125626
- Smart: 09988940013
- Landline: (02) 7253176
- The Lung Center of the Philippines: Facebook (COVIDAskForce)
- UP Diliman Psychosocial Services: 0916-7573157; email: email@example.com
- The Coalition for People’s Right to Health and Council for Health and Development: FB Messenger or hotlines (02) 8929-8109 and (02) 8806-1306
- The Manila Doctors Hospital Pulmonology Postgraduate Course Facebook page
- Tisha Ocampo, “Iran: 44, dead of alcohol poisoning due to COVID-19 protection fake rumor,” International Business Times, 10 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.ibtimes.com/iran-44-deadalcohol-poisoning-due-covid-19-protection-fake-rumor-2937427.
- Trolls are online writers who harass other online users and post deceitful and/or inflammatory statements.
- “Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19),” World Health Organization, 9 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses.
- “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) situation report-59,” World Health Organization, 19 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200319-sitrep-59-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=c3dcdef9_2.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that vigorous handwashing must be done with soap for at least 20 seconds.
- “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters,” World Health Organization, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters.
- “Q&A: Similarities and differences–COVID-19 and influenza,” World Health Organization, 17 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-similarities-and-differences-covid-19-and-influenza.
- “Coronavirus: Newborn becomes youngest person diagnosed with virus,” BBC News, 6 February 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51395655; ”Oriental Mindoro’s first COVID-19 patient is a 1-year-old girl,” CNN Philippines, 27 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.cnnphilippines.com/regional/2020/3/27/Oriental-Mindoro-baby-coronavirus.html.
- Rachel Schraer, “Coronavirus: What’s young people’s risk?” BBC News, 25 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52003804.
- “Q&A: Similarities and differences.”
- Robert Cuffe, “Coronavirus death rate: What are the chances of dying?” BBC News, 24 March 2020 , accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-51674743.
- James Gallagher, “Coronavirus: How close are we to a vaccine or drug?,” BBC News, 20 March 2020 , accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-51665497.
- Natalie O’Neill, “Second dog in Hong Kong tests positive for coronavirus,” New York Post, 19 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://nypost.com/2020/03/19/second-dog-in-hong-kong-tests-positivefor-coronavirus/.
- Lee Brown, “First known cat infected with coronavirus reported in Belgium,” New York Post, 27 March 2020, accessed 27 March 2020, https://nypost.com/2020/03/27/first-known-cat-infected-with-coronavirus-reported-in-belgium/.
- “Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19).”
- “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public.”
- Ibid; “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives,” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 18 March 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html.
- Leah Moriarty, Mateusz M. Plucinski, Barbara Marston, et al., “Public health responses to COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships,” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 March 2020, accessed 29 March 2020, Public Health Responses to COVID-19 Outbreaks on Cruise Ships — Worldwide, February–March 2020.
- Neeltje van Doremalen et al., “Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARSCoV-1,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 17 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.nejm. org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973.
- “Handwashing: Clean hands save lives,” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The normal body temperature ranges from 36.5°C to 37°C.
- Ruiyun Li, Sen Pei, Bin Chen, et al., “Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2),” Science, 16 March 22020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/03/24/science.abb3221. This study of geospatial and temporaral data of 3 billion trips in or from China estimated that prior to the 23 January 2020 lockdown of Wuhan 86% of all infections were undocumented, allowing the disease to escape to other parts of China and many international ports with direct connections to China.
- “Myth busters.”
- Fernando Duarte, “Who is ‘patient zero’ in the coronavirus outbreak?,” BBC Future, 24 February 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200221-coronavirus-the-harmful-hunt-for-covid-19s-patient-zero; “Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation report-22,” World Health Organization, 11 February 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200211-sitrep-22-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=fb6d49b1_2.
- “World Health Organization holds a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic,” CNBC Television, 16 March 2020, YouTube video, 48:35, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHHCJFiDoR4.
- “Aerosol generating procedures,” Health Protection Surveillance Centre, 20 December 2013, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/influenza/seasonalinfluenza/infectioncontroladvice/ File,3625,en.pdf.
- “Myth busters”; John Eric Mendoza, “Bananas no cure for COVID-19,” The Manila Times, 16 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/03/16/news/latest-stories/bananasno-cure-for-covid-19-doctor/703677/.
- “Preparing for an Outbreak,” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/faq.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https:// www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/faq.html.