We have analyzed the most common questions about the Coronavirus (COVID-19): how it spreads, how it can be ended, the contagion by pets, what several virologists, scientists, and specialists to answer the questions through social networks. These are the answers to these experts in the field.
The initial symptomatology of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the same as a cold or the flu.
The Dr. Ignacio Lopez-Goni, Professor of Microbiology and director of the Science Museum of the University of Navarra, Adelaida Sarukhan, Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Paris VI and the Professor of Preventive Medicine & Public Health at the University of Granada Aurora Good Cavanillas answer us the most frequently asked questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19) that you have asked us through social networks.
1. Question: How does the virus spread from one person to another?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: Through those small drops that we all expel when talking, coughing, or sneezing. They can enter us through the mouth, nose, and eyes directly or through our hands if they are contaminated with these drops. We don’t realize it, but we touch our faces once at least every 2-5 minutes.
2. Question: Why is there so much fear and action about this virus if it kills less than the flu?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: It doesn’t kill less than the flu. It causes pneumonia that can be severe, requiring hospitalization. In some cases, they can be fatal. What you want to avoid is the collapse of the health system. Ten examples in 10 days are not the same as 100 in one day.
3. Question: So, is it more deadly than the common flu?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: Although the comparison is severe, the case fatality rate for common influenza is around 0.1%. The new coronavirus can reach 2%, even more in older people.
4. Question: How is coronavirus different from a cold or flu?
Aurora Bueno: The initial symptoms are the same as a cold or flu. Individual diagnoses can only be made by virus identification.
5. Question: If it is a disease that has no cure, how do the sick recover?
Adelaide Sarukhan: There is no specific treatment for the disease, but symptoms can be treated, and respiratory support can be provided to patients who require it. 20% of patients require hospitalization, and of that 20%, 6% enter the critical condition.
6. Question: Can coronavirus heal on its own and without going to the doctor?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: Yes, you can. In almost 80% of cases, it is symptomless or mild, and treatment is carried out on those symptoms that occur, as in the flu.
7. Question: When is it most contagious: before, during, or after?
Aurora Bueno: The risk of contagion depends on the concentration of viruses in the respiratory secretions. Generally, this is greater in the hours before the onset of symptoms and during the clinical course of the infectious picture. Still, it does not entirely disappear with the symptoms, but gradually declines.
8. Question: How long is the incubation period for the coronavirus?
Aurora Bueno: The data available so far suggests that the most frequent incubation period is 5 – 6 days, ranging from 1 – 14 days. However, in some exceptional cases, they could have a more extended incubation period.
9. Question: Really, is coronavirus so dangerous?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: Although in many cases the symptoms may be mild, in 16%, it can cause severe pneumonia. In those over 80 years of age, the mortality rate can rise to 15%.
10. Question: What mortality rate can you reach?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: It depends on many factors. Almost 15% of older people with previous pathologies are less than 0.2% in those under 40 years of age.
Until now, it is more lethal in men than in women, and it also influences the health system: it is not the same to contract it in a place where the health systems are saturated, and the number of patients is so high that they cannot be adequately cared for than to do it in a country where there is a small trickle of some sporadic cases.
Therefore, the mortality in the city of Wuhan that concentrates the highest number of deaths may be more significant than 3%, but it maybe 0.7% in other provinces, and even less outside China.
11. Question: With heat, is it more challenging to get coronavirus?
Aurora Bueno: It is possible that when temperatures increase, the persistence of the virus in the environment will decrease, and with it, one of the risk factors. It also reduces the concentration of people in closed spaces, and that is another factor associated with the decrease in droplet-borne diseases.
But the primary transmission mechanism is direct exposure to respiratory secretions, through the saliva droplets expelled when speaking, coughing or sneezing, or by hands contaminated by said droplets. Respiratory etiquette and correct hand hygiene are the leading measures to decrease contagion.
12. Question: Is it true that the virus dies at more than 30ºC?
Adelaide Sarukhan: Like many respiratory viruses, it is sensitive to humidity and temperature, and the spread is expected to decrease as temperatures rise. It is still early to know, but for example, Singapore had transmission despite higher temperatures.
14. Question: Are all the stringent measures being taken necessary?
Adelaida Sarukhan: Yes. Even though most patients develop mild symptoms, there are especially vulnerable populations such as the elderly and with chronic conditions that must be protected with measures such as social distancing, voluntary quarantines, etc.
15. Question: Is it here to stay as an endemic infection, or will the outbreak pass?
Adelaida Sarukhan: Several experts predict that this virus is here to stay and that it will become one of those that affect us every year. The duration and impact of this epidemic will vary by country and context. Still, it is expected that in a few months, the population will have acquired a level of immunity that will slow the spread of the virus.
16. Question: Can the coronavirus be contracted and transmitted by pets?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: Some pet cases have indeed been reported that have tested positive, but that does not mean that they transmit it. So far, it has not been shown that pets can send it.
17. Question: Is it dangerous in young people with lung conditions like asthma?
Young people appear to be poorly susceptible to the disease, but chronic and respiratory diseases are a risk factor, even among young people.
18. Question: Are you immunized after passing the coronavirus?
Aurora Bueno: Generally, viral infections, once overcome, leave immunity. Infected people overcome the disease thanks to the response of their immune system, and that response is saved in the memory of the system. When the virus mutates, for example, with the influenza virus, the immune system’s response loses effectiveness. If it is a new virus, as with Coronavirus (COVID-19), there is no immune memory, and the entire population is susceptible.
19. Question: Why do new viruses appear?
Ignacio Lopez-Goni: We know less than 1% of the viruses that are out there. 70% of new infections come from animals. Contact with animals, ecological and climatic changes, globalization, and people’s mobility are factors that can influence viruses present in nature to begin to have contact with humans.