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COVID-19 and Coronaviruses: Questions and Answers

Published: 2020-02-20 - Updated: 2021-08-23
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (

Synopsis: Reference list of commonly asked questions, including answers, regarding COVID-19 and Coronaviruses in general. The new, or "novel" coronavirus, now called COVID-19, had not previously detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. WHO advises on rational use of medical masks thus avoiding unnecessary wastage of precious resources and potential misuse of masks.


Main Digest

NOTE: This Q&A page has been rewritten/re-organized from the original page regarding questions and answers on coronaviruses on the World Health Organization (WHO) web page in order to present the information in an accessible format for persons with disabilities.

Other Coronavirus Information Publications (25)

What is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What is a "Novel" Coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The new, or "novel" coronavirus, now called COVID-19, had not previously detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

What are the Official Names of the Disease and the Virus that Causes It?

WHO announced "COVID-19" as the name of this disease on 11th February 2020, following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) announced "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)" as the name of the new virus on 11 February 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.

From a risk communications perspective, using the name SARS can have unintended consequences in terms of creating unnecessary fear for some populations, especially in Asia which was worst affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003.

For that reason and others, WHO has begun referring to the virus as "the virus responsible for COVID-19" or "the COVID-19 virus" when communicating with the public. Neither of these designations are intended as replacements for the official name of the virus as agreed by the ICTV.

More about the official names of this disease and the virus that causes it

Is the COVID-19 Virus the Same as SARS?

No, COVID-19 is from the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) but it is not the same virus.

How Dangerous is the COVID-19 Virus?

As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as, diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Who Can Catch this Virus?

WHO is continuously monitoring the epidemiology of this outbreak to better understand where the virus is circulating and how people can protect themselves from infection.

For more information, see WHO's latest situation reports.

How Does the Virus Spread?

The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when a person, for example, coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.

Does the New Coronavirus Spread Through Aerosols?

Issues relating to aerosol often come up when people want to know how to protect themselves from respiratory diseases. When people sneeze or cough, they may spray big droplets but the droplets do not stay suspended in the air for long. They fall. Health care procedures like intubation can spray small droplets into the air.

We know about environmental contamination for MERS-CoV and finding RNA in air filtration systems (but not the live virus). However, for the new coronavirus, we still need to see the data and understand how transmission has been assessed.

Can Humans Become Infected with the COVID-19 from an Animal Source?

Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans in China in 2002 and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. As surveillance improves around the world, more coronaviruses are likely to be identified

The animal source of the COVID-19 has not yet been identified.

This does not mean you can catch COVID-19 from any animal or from your pet. It's likely that an animal source from a live animal market in China was responsible for some of the first reported human infections. To protect yourself, when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.

The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

Can I Catch COVID-19 from Pets?

No, at present there is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or have spread COVID-19.

Can the COVID-19 be transmitted from person to person?

Yes, the COVID-19 causes respiratory disease and can be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, for example, in a household workplace, or health care center.

Illustration of the human body outlining the main symptoms of Coronavirus COVID-19. Symptoms listed are - Systemic: Fever, Fatigue. Kidneys: Decreased function. Intestines: Diarrhea. Respiratory: Sneezing, Runny nose, Sore throat, Dry cough, Shortness of breath. Circulatory system: Decreased white blood cells.
Illustration of the human body outlining the main symptoms of Coronavirus COVID-19. Symptoms listed are - Systemic: Fever, Fatigue. Kidneys: Decreased function. Intestines: Diarrhea. Respiratory: Sneezing, Runny nose, Sore throat, Dry cough, Shortness of breath. Circulatory system: Decreased white blood cells.

Protection and Treatment Information

Are Antibiotics Effective in Preventing and Treating the COVID-19?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. The novel coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat COVID-19?

To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus. However, those infected with COVID-19 should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to coordinate efforts to develop medicines to treat nCoV with a range of partners.

If you want to protect yourself from getting infected with the new coronavirus, you should maintain basic hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices and avoiding close contact, when possible, with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.The following measures ARE NOT specifically recommended as COVID-19 remedies as they are not effective to protect yourself and can be even harmful:

In the case you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your recent travel history with your health care provider.

Medical Masks

Should I Wear a Mask to Protect Myself?

Wearing a medical mask can help limit the spread of some respiratory disease. However, using a mask alone is not guaranteed to stop infections and should be combined with other prevention measures including hand and respiratory hygiene and avoiding close contact - at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people.

WHO advises on rational use of medical masks thus avoiding unnecessary wastage of precious resources and potential misuse of masks. This means using masks only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have suspected COVID-19 infection with mild symptoms or are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19 infection. A suspected COVID-19 infection is linked to travel in an area in China where COVID-19 has been reported, or close contact with someone who has traveled from China and has respiratory symptoms.

How Do I Put On, Use, or Take Off and Dispose of a Mask?

Who is at Risk of Developing Severe Illness?

While we still need to learn more about how COVID-19 affects people, thus far, older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more at risk of developing severe disease.

How Long Does the Virus Survive on Surfaces?

It is still not known how long the COVID-19 virus survives on surfaces, although preliminary information suggests the virus may survive a few hours or more. Simple disinfectants can kill the virus making it no longer possible to infect people.

Is it Safe to Receive a Package from China or Any Other Place Where the Virus Has Been Identified?

Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don't survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.

What's the Difference Between Illness Caused by COVID-19, The Flu or a Cold?

People with COVID-19 infection, the flu, or a cold typically develop respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and runny nose. Even though many symptoms are alike, they are caused by different viruses.

Because of their similarities, it can be difficult to identify the disease based on symptoms alone. That's why laboratory tests are required to confirm if someone has COVID-19.

As always, WHO recommends that people who have cough, fever and difficulty breathing should seek medical care early.

Patients should inform health care providers if they have travelled in the 14 days before they developed symptoms, or if they have been in close contact with someone with who has been sick with respiratory symptoms.

How Long is the Incubation Period?

The incubation period is the time between infection and the onset of clinical symptoms of disease.

Current estimates of the incubation period range from 1-12.5 days with median estimates of 5-6 days. These estimates will be refined as more data become available.

Based on information from other coronavirus diseases, such as MERS and SARS, the incubation period of COVID-19 could be up to 14 days. WHO recommends that the follow-up of contacts of confirmed cases is 14 days.

Can COVID-19 be Caught from a Person Who Presents No Symptoms?

Understanding the time when infected patients may spread the virus to others is critical for control efforts. Detailed medical information from people infected is needed to determine the infectious period of COVID-19. According to recent reports, it may be possible that people infected with COVID-19 may be infectious before showing significant symptoms. However, based on currently available data, the people who have symptoms are causing the majority of virus spread.

Has WHO Changed its Advice on Health Protection?

No, the advice is the same. WHO has issued advice to people on how to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection, as for any virus that spreads via the respiratory route.

In addition, it is vitally important in health care settings that health care workers are able to protect themselves from infection. WHO guidance on infection prevention and control measures in health care facilities.

Stay up to date on Disabled World's COVID-19 Updates, Statistics and Advisories.

Anger Spreads Against COVID-19 Anti-vaxxers As Cases Rise

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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2020, February 20). COVID-19 and Coronaviruses: Questions and Answers. Disabled World. Retrieved May 22, 2022 from