Most commonly asked questions about COVID-19
by Marisabelle Bonnici
First detected in December 2019, Covid-19 has killed more than 700,000 people across the world with infections being close to 18 million worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the world as we know it. From nationwide lockdowns to worrying effects on stock markets, companies going bankrupt and thousands of people losing their jobs and homes, as well as dangerous conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of things we do not know about the virus.
Yellow Malta and I have teamed up to compile a list of common questions – and answer as many as we can.
What is COVID–19?
COVID–19 is a new strain in a family of viruses we've all seen before – the coronavirus family. This is a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to SARS. Different strains of these viruses can infect both humans and animals.
The strain that began spreading in Wuhan, China, is closely related to two other strains of coronavirus that have caused outbreaks in the past decade, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
COVID-19 symptoms include respiratory problems, high fevers, pneumonia, fluid buildup in the lungs, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, runny nose and a loss of taste or smell as well as kidney failure. Symptoms may appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
It appears to be highly transmissible, as many asymptomatic cases have been found, the disease may be more widespread than current testing numbers suggest.
How does COVID–19 spread?
The virus spreads from person to person, through droplets that can be spread through sneezing, coughing and even talking. These droplets, being airborne, can land in the mouths or noses of people who are in the vicinity of someone who is Covid positive.
Spreading of the virus is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within 2 metres). An individual does not need to feel sick or show symptoms to spread it.
Can I get COVID–19 when eating at a restaurant?
At the moment scientists have no evidence that the virus can spread through food consumption. It may, however, be spread through touching a surface, such as a table or cutlery or menu that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes. However, this is not the main way the virus spreads. And through proper hygiene protocols, using QR codes for menus, and avoiding touching your face as much as possible this type of transmission can become minimal.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is spread through drinking water or tap water. Water treatment through filtration and disinfection of the water should remove any traces of the virus.
How deadly is it and who is most at risk?
Current statistics are showing that COVID-19 is less deadly than SARS, which had a mortality rate of 10 percent of those who were infected during the outbreak in 2002. But pharmaco-epidemiologists are still working on proper statistics with regards to the current pandemic fatality rates. Similar to other viruses that affect the respiratory systems, older people and those with illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure, respiratory chronic conditions and those who are immunocompromised, are at increased risk. Current data shows that more men have died due to COVID–19 infections than women. But of course, there can still be people with no underlying conditions who succumb to the disease, and others who are high risk and recover. This is why it is essential for everyone to maintain good hygiene and social distancing practices.
What is the Kawasaki disease and MIS-C?
Kawasaki disease was found to affect children, teens and young adults and is characterised by inflammation of the blood vessels and involves the heart and multiple organs. Kawasaki disease seems to be triggered by COVID-19. The syndrome appears to be rare, but shows a very rapid decline in the health of patients who exhibit symptoms. The condition is now being dubbed as Multisystem Inflammatory syndrome - Children. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly.
Very little is known about it, except that it causes widespread inflammation including in the skin, eyes, and vital organs – and that the majority of those who have been diagnosed with it were either COVID positive or in contact with someone who is COVID positive. The good news is that most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with appropriate medical care.
Are pregnant women higher risk?
Based on what we know at this time, pregnant women are in fact high risk. Additionally, there may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, among pregnant women with COVID-19.
Therefore, if you are pregnant, be mindful about reducing your risk of getting sick. However, it is still important not to skip prenatal appointments with your physician. Pregnant women are recommended to prevent interaction with others as much as possible including working from home, maintaining social distance and wearing masks. Try and keep a stock of 30 days of essential medicines and food to avoid shopping in closed areas. It is normal to feel very anxious at this time, we suggest seeking advice from your health care provider on ways to reduce anxiety.
Why should I wear a Mask?
Wearing masks when in public is important because they may slow the spread of the virus as well as slow down transmission from carriers.
Keep in mind that COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That's why it's important for everyone to maintain a social distance of 2 metres or more, and wear masks in public settings. Masks provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.
Should children wear masks?
It is recommended for children 3 years and older to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth in public settings, particularly where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Masks should NOT be put on babies or children younger than 3 due to the danger of suffocation.
How can I protect my child from COVID–19?
- Avoid putting toys and unnecessary items in their mouth
- Teach them about personal space
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after coughing, using the bathroom and before eating and every time they come back inside the house.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, like tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles.
- Eat healthy food
- Drink plenty of water
When will it end?
This particular strain coronavirus could follow a seasonal pattern, peaking in the winter months. However, epidemiologists are still unable to foresee further patterns of spreading – it could be similar to the common cold where it returns every few months. For the time being, we recommend you follow all safety measures outlined by our healthcare professionals. Based on what happened with the Spanish flu in 1918 it could be 2 years before the potency of the virus is reduced.