Questions & Answers
1- What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.
2- What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally.
3- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Dry cough
Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include:
- Loss of taste or smell,
- Nasal congestion,
- Conjunctivitis (also known as red eyes)
- Sore throat,
- Muscle or joint pain,
- Different types of skin rash,
- Nausea or vomiting,
- Chills or dizziness.
Symptoms are usually mild. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms or none at all.
Symptoms of severe COVID‐19 disease include:
- Shortness of breath,
- Loss of appetite,
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest,
- High temperature (above 38 °C).
Other less common symptoms are:
- Reduced consciousness (sometimes associated with seizures),
- Sleep disorders,
- More severe and rare neurological complications such as strokes, brain inflammation, delirium and nerve damage.
People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough associated with difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or loss of speech or movement should seek medical care immediately. If possible, call your health care provider, hotline or health facility first, so you can be directed to the right clinic. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are
4- How does COVID-19 spread between people?
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which spreads between people, mainly when an infected person is in close contact with another person.
The virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe heavily. These liquid particles are different sizes, ranging from larger ‘respiratory droplets’ to smaller ‘aerosols’.
Other people can catch COVID-19 when the virus gets into their mouth, nose or eyes, which is more likely to happen when people are in direct or close contact (less than 1 metre apart) with an infected person.
Current evidence suggests that the main way the virus spreads is by respiratory droplets among people who are in close contact with each other.
Aerosol transmission can occur in specific settings, particularly in indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces, where infected person(s) spend long periods of time with others, such as restaurants, choir practices, fitness classes, nightclubs, offices and/or places of worship. More studies are underway to better understand the conditions in which aerosol transmission is occurring outside of medical facilities where specific medical procedures, called aerosol generating procedures, are conducted.
The virus can also spread after infected people sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, or objects, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. Other people may become infected by touching these contaminated surfaces, then touching their eyes, noses or mouths without having cleaned their hands first.
Find out more about the science about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects the body and how our body’s immune system reacts by watching or reading this interview with WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove.
5- What should I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?
If you have any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, call your health care provider or COVID-19 hotline for instructions and find out when and where to get a test, stay at home for 14 days away from others and monitor your health.
If you have shortness of breath or pain or pressure in the chest, seek medical attention at a health facility immediately. Call your health care provider or hotline in advance for direction to the right health facility.
If you live in an area with malaria or dengue fever, seek medical care if you have a fever.
If local guidance recommends visiting a medical center for testing, assessment or isolation, wear a medical mask while travelling to and from the facility and during medical care. Also keep at least a 1-metre distance from other people and avoid touching surfaces with your hands. This applies to adults and children.
6- Can Covid-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?
COVID-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing or has other symptoms such as fever or tiredness. Many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true in the early stages of the disease. It is possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has just a mild cough and does not feel ill.
Some reports have indicated that people with no symptoms can transmit the virus. It is not yet known how often it happens. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the topic and will continue to share updated findings.
7- Can I catch COVID-19 from the feces of someone with the disease?
While initial investigations suggest the virus may be present in faeces in some cases, to date, there have not been reports of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19. Additionally, there is no evidence to date on the survival of the COVID-19 virus in water or sewage.
WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share new findings on this topic.
8- What can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of disease?
Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Most countries around the world have seen cases of COVID-19 and many are experiencing outbreaks. Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing their outbreaks. However, the situation is unpredictable so check regularly for the latest news.
You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others.
Why? When someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person has the disease.
- Avoid going to crowded places.
Why? Where people come together in crowds, you are more likely to come into close contact with someone that has COIVD-19 and it is more difficult to maintain physical distance of 1 metre (3 feet).
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and infect you.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
- Stay home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others.
Why? Avoiding contact with others will protect them from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
- Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted sources, such as WHO or your local and national health authorities.
Why? Local and national authorities are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
9- How can we protect others and ourselves if we don't know who is infected?
Stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work. Do it all!
Read our public advice page for more information.
10- What should I do if I have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19?
If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you may become infected, even if you feel well.
After exposure to someone who has COVID-19, do the following:
- Call your health care provider or COVID-19 hotline to find out where and when to get a test.
- Cooperate with contact-tracing procedures to stop the spread of the virus.
- If testing is not available, stay home and away from others for 14 days.
- During this time, do not go to work, to school or to public places. Ask someone to bring you supplies.
- Keep at least a 1-metre distance from others, even from your family members.
- Wear a medical mask to protect others, including if/when you need to seek medical care.
- Clean your hands frequently.
- Stay in a separate room from other family members, and if not possible, wear a medical mask.
- Keep the room well-ventilated.
- If you share a room, place beds at least 1 metre apart.
- Monitor yourself for any symptoms for 14 days.
- Stay positive by keeping in touch with loved ones by phone or online, and by exercising at home.
If you live in an area with malaria or dengue fever, seek medical help if you have a fever. While travelling to and from the health facility and during medical care, wear a mask, keep at least a 1-metre distance from other people and avoid touching surfaces with your hands. This applies to adults and children.
Read our malaria and COVID-19 Q&A for more information.
11- What does it mean to self-isolate?
Self-isolation is an important measure taken by those who have COVID-19 symptoms to avoid infecting others in the community, including family members.
Self-isolation is when a person who is experiencing fever, cough or other COVID-19 symptoms stays at home and does not go to work, school or public places. This can be voluntarily or based on his/her health care provider’s recommendation. However, if you live in an area with malaria or dengue fever it is important that you do not ignore symptoms of fever. Seek medical help. When you attend the health facility wear a mask if possible, keep at least 1 metre distant from other people and do not touch surfaces with your hands. If it is a child who is sick help the child stick to this advice.
If you do not live in an area with malaria or dengue fever please do the following:
- If a person is in self-isolation, it is because he/she is ill but not severely ill (requiring medical attention)
have a large, well-ventilated with hand-hygiene and toilet facilities
- have a large, well-ventilated with hand-hygiene and toilet facilities
- If this is not possible, place beds at least 1 metre apart
- Keep at least 1 metre (3 feet) from others, even from your family members
- Monitor your symptoms daily
- Isolate for 14 days, even if you feel healthy
- If you develop difficulty breathing, contact your healthcare provider immediately – call them first if possible
- Stay positive and energized by keeping in touch with loved ones by phone or online, and by exercising yourself at home.
12- Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?
No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses; they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. In hospitals physicians will sometimes use antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections which can be a complication of COVID-19 in severely ill patients. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
13- What should I do if I have no symptoms, but I think I have been exposed to COVID-19? What does it mean to self-quarantine?
To self-quarantine means to separate yourself from others because you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 even though you, yourself, do not have symptoms.During self-quarantine you monitor yourself for symptoms. The goal of the self-quarantine is to prevent transmission. Since people who become ill with COVID-19 can infect people immediately self-quarantine can prevent some infections from happening.
In this case:
- Have a large, well-ventilated single room with hand hygiene and toilet facilities
- If this is not available place beds at least 1 metre apart.
- Keep at least 1-metre distance from others, even from your family members.
- Monitor your symptoms daily
- Self-quarantine for 14 days, even if you feel healthy
- If you develop difficulty breathing, contact your healthcare provider immediately – call them first if possible.
- Stay positive and energized by keeping in touch with loved ones by phone or online, and by exercising yourself at home.
However, if you live in an area with malaria or dengue fever it is important that you do not ignore symptoms of fever. Seek medical help. When you attend the health facility wear a mask if possible, keep at least 1 metre distant from other people and do not touch surfaces with your hands. If it is a child who is sick help the child stick to this advice.
14- Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
Not yet. Many potential vaccines for COVID-19 are being studied, and several large clinical trials may report results later this year. If a vaccine is proven safe and effective, it must be approved by national regulators, manufactured, and distributed. WHO is working with partners around the world to help coordinate key steps in this process. WHO is working through the ACT-Accelerator to facilitate equitable access to a safe and effective vaccine for the billions of people who will need it, once it is available. More information about COVID-19 vaccine development is available here.
15- What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?
Both isolation and quarantine are methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Quarantine is used for anyone who is a contact of someone infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, whether the infected person has symptoms or not. Quarantine means that you remain separated from others because you have been exposed to the virus and you may be infected and can take place in a designated facility or at home. For COVID-19, this means staying in the facility or at home for 14 days.
Isolation is used for people with COVID-19 symptoms or who have tested positive for the virus. Being in isolation means being separated from other people, ideally in a medically facility where you can receive clinical care. If isolation in a medical facility is not possible and you are not in a high risk group of developing severe disease, isolation can take place at home. If you have symptoms, you should remain in isolation for at least 10 days plus an additional 3 days without symptoms. If you are infected and do not develop symptoms, you should remain in isolation for 10 days from the time you test positive.
16- Does WHO recommend wearing medical masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Currently, there is not enough evidence for or against the use of masks (medical or other) in healthy individuals in the wider community. However, WHO is actively studying the rapidly evolving science on masks and continuously updates its guidance.
Medical masks are recommended primarily in health care settings, but can be considered in other circumstances (see below). Medical masks should be combined with other key infection prevention and control measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing.
Why? Medical masks and respirators such as N95, FFP2 or equivalent are recommended for and should be reserved for, healthcare workers while giving care to patients. Close contact with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and their surrounding environment are the main routes of transmission, which means healthcare workers are the most exposed.
People who are sick and exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
Why? Anyone who is sick, with mild symptoms such as muscle aches, slight cough, sore throat or fatigue, should isolate at home and use a medical mask according to WHO’s recommendation on home care of patients with suspected COVID-19. Coughing, sneezing or talking can generate droplets that cause can spread the infection. These droplets can reach the face of others nearby and land on the surrounding environment. If an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks while wearing a medical mask, this can help to protect those nearby from infection. If a sick person needs to go to a health facility they should wear a medical mask.
Anyone taking care of a person at home who is sick with COVID-19
Why? Those caring for individuals who are sick with COVID-19 should wear a medical mask for protection. Again, close, frequent and prolonged contact with someone with COVID-19 puts caretakers at high risk. National decision makers may also choose to recommend medical mask use for certain individuals using a risk-based approach. This approach takes into consideration the purpose of the mask, risk of exposure and vulnerability of the wearer, the setting, the feasibility of use and the types of masks to be considered.
17- How to properly wear a medical mask?
If you choose to wear a mask:
- Before touching the mask, clean hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- Take the mask and inspect it for tears or holes.
- Orient which side is the top side (where the metal strip is).
- Ensure the proper side of the mask faces outwards (the coloured side).
- Place the mask to your face. Pinch the metal strip or stiff edge of the mask so it moulds to the shape of your nose.
- Pull down the mask’s bottom so it covers your mouth and your chin.
- Do not touch the mask while you are wearing it for protection.
- After use, take off the mask with clean hands; remove the elastic loops from behind the ears while keeping the mask away from your face and clothes, to avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces of the mask.
- Discard the mask in a closed bin immediately after use. Do not reuse the mask.
- Perform hand hygiene after touching or discarding the mask – Use alcohol-based hand rub or, if visibly soiled, wash your hands with soap and water.
Be aware that there is a global shortage of medical masks (both surgical masks and N95 masks). These should be reserved as much as possible for health care workers.
Remember that masks are not a substitute for other, more effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 such as frequently washing your hands, covering your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) from others. See basic protective measures against the new coronavirus for more information.
Follow the advice of your national health authority on the use of masks.
18- How long does it take to develop symptoms?
The time from exposure to COVID-19 to the moment when symptoms begin is, on average, 5-6 days and can range from 1-14 days. This is why people who have been exposed to the virus are advised to remain at home and stay away from others, for 14 days, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, especially where testing is not easily available.
19- What is the connection between COVID-19 and animals?
COVID-19 is spread through human-to-human transmission.
We already know a lot about other viruses in the coronavirus family and most of these types of viruses have an origin in animals. The COVID-19 virus (also called SARS-CoV-2) is a new virus in humans. The possible animal source of COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed but research is ongoing.
WHO continues to monitor the latest research on this and other COVID-19 topics and will update, as new findings are available.
20- Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet or other animals?
Several dogs and cats (domestic cats and tigers) in contact with infected humans have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, ferrets appear to be 20susceptible to the infection. In experimental conditions, both cats and ferrets were able to transmit infection to other animals of the same species. However, there is no evidence that these animals can transmit the disease to humans and spread COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.
Minks raised in farms have also been detected with the virus. Most likely, they have been infected by farm workers. In a few instances, the minks that were infected by humans have transmitted the virus to other people. These are the first reported cases of animal-to-human transmission.
It is still recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 and people who are at risk limit contact with companion and other animals. When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing after handling animals, their food or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.
More recommendations are available on the OIE website.
WHO continues to monitor the latest research on this and other COVID-19 topics and will update as new findings are available.
21- How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
The most important thing to know about coronavirus on surfaces is that they can easily be cleaned with common household disinfectants that will kill the virus. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard.
As, always clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
22- Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?
Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.
23- Can children or adolescents catch COVID-19?
Research indicates that children and adolescents are just as likely to become infected as any other age group and can spread the disease.
Evidence to date suggests that children and young adults are less likely to get severe disease, but severe cases can still happen in these age groups.
Children and adults should follow the same guidance on self-quarantine and self-isolation if there is a risk they have been exposed or are showing symptoms. It is particularly important that children avoid contact with older people and others who are at risk of more severe disease.
24- Is the source of the coronavirus causing COVID-19 known?
Currently, the source of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus (CoV) causing COVID-19 is unknown. All available evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 has a natural animal origin and is not a constructed virus. SARS-CoV-2 virus most probably has its ecological reservoir in bats. SARS-CoV-2, belongs to a group of genetically related viruses, which also include SARS-CoV and a number of other CoVs isolated from bats populations. MERS-CoV also belongs to this group, but is less closely related.
25- How did the first human SARS-CoV-2 infections occur?
The first human cases of COVID-19 were identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. At this stage, it is not possible to determine precisely how humans in China were initially infected with SARS-CoV-2.
However, SARS-CoV, the virus which caused the SARS outbreak in 2003, jumped from an animal reservoir (civet cats, a farmed wild animal) to humans and then spread between humans. In a similar way, it is thought that SARS-CoV-2 jumped the species barrier and initially infected humans, but more likely through an intermediate host, that is another animal species more likely to be handled by humans - this could be a domestic animal, a wild animal, or a domesticated wild animal and, as of yet, has not been identified.
Until the source of this virus is identified and controlled, there is a risk of reintroduction of the virus in the human population and the risk of new outbreaks like the ones we are currently experiencing.
26- How to grocery shop safely?
When grocery shopping, keep at least 1-metre distance from others and avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose. If possible, sanitize the handles of shopping trolleys or baskets before shopping. Once home, wash your hands thoroughly and also after handling and storing your purchased products.
There is currently no confirmed case of COVID-19 transmitted through food or food packaging.
27- How to wash fruits and vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. Wash them the same way you should do under any circumstance: before handling them, wash your hands with soap and water. Then, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water, especially if you eat them raw.
28- Can Corona Virus be transmitted through foods?
There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is passed on through food.
29- Must hands be washed and sanitized all the time? And which is better alcohol sanitizers or washing hands with soap and water?
Yes. Based on data from a number of studies, CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water because hand washing reduces the amounts of all types of germs. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
30- What are the precautionary measures for handling post office, E-shopping packages and other items such as groceries?
Here are the most important precautionary measures:
- Reduce your visits to various stores, and replace that by online shopping.
- If you have to go to stores, avoid crowds and peak times, and make a distance between you and others not less than one meter.
- Keep with you an alcoholic sanitizer, alcohol content is not less than 60%.
- Clean your hands with alcoholic sanitizer before starting and after finishing the shopping, with the necessity of wiping the shopping cart handle with sterile wipes before holding it.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth during the shopping process and after its completion.
- Avoid touching grocery items as much as possible.
- Use an electronic cash transactions, and avoid dealing in paper and metal currency as much as possible, and in case that you have to do so, be sure to clean hands immediately.
- The E-shopping packages, grocery and postal items should be sterilized using sterile products when bring into the house and sterilize the surfaces immediately with the necessity of washing hands immediately with soap and water for a period of not less than twenty seconds.
31- What are the cleaning agents and sanitizers to use to avoid being infected by Coronavirus?
Based on data from a number of studies, CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
32- Is there a treatment for Coronavirus? And can Flu vaccine protect against Coronavirus?
There is no specific medicine to treat coronavirus disease COVID-19. Generally, The most important step in preventing the flu every year is to get a flu shot after physician consultation.
33- Could I be infected with Coronavirus without knowing it?
Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have mild to severe symptoms or asymptomatic.
34- Is it safe to continue to go to work?
It is preferable to work remotely at home, except in some cases and jobs that require leaving the house to work while taking into consideration all the precautionary measures.
35- Can vitamins help prevent from being infected with Coronavirus?
Dietary supplements and vitamins such as vitamin C help to prevent and treat seasonal influenza. But this does not mean its ability to prevent and treat the coronavirus COVID-19. Preventive measures such as hand washing and maintaining sneezing etiquette in addition to commitment to social distancing are the most important ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.
36- What does social distancing mean?
It refers to the act of avoiding others and keep a distance of at least 1 meter between you and another individual especially those who are suffering from cough and sneezing in order to avoid being infected. Social distancing involves avoiding handshaking and instead use greeting gesture that does not involve direct contact. Avoid crowds in closed places.
37- What effects does coronavirus have on Pregnant women?
Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. As per CDC, it is unknown at this time if COVID-19 would cause problems during pregnancy or affect the health of the baby after birth.
38- What effects does coronavirus have on patients with compromised immune system?
The primary role of the immune system is to help fight off infection through T and B lymphocytes. Patients with compromised immune systems due to certain disease or medication are at a higher risk of getting infections, including viral infections such as COVID-19.
39- What effects does coronavirus have on cancer patients?
In general, cancer patients are considered high-risk for developing severe complications if infected with COVID-19 virus. The type of cancer plays a role in determining the severity of such complications.
40- What effects does coronavirus have on patients with chronic diseases and elderly?
The severity of symptoms and complications of COVID-19 virus infection, may increase in people with chronic illnesses like diseases of the respiratory system, heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and diseases of the immune system, in addition to people over 60 years of age.
41- I am pregnant. How can I protect myself against COVID-19?
Pregnant women should take the same precautions to avoid COVID-19 infection as other people. You can help protect yourself by:
- Washing your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Keeping space between yourselves and others and avoiding crowded spaces.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Practicing respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
42- Can COVID-19 be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn or newborn baby?
We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery. To date, the virus has not been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.
43- Can COVID-19 be passed through breastfeeding?
The COVID-19 virus has not been found in breastmilk. Transmission of COVID-19 through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected to date. There is no reason to avoid or stop breastfeeding.
44- Following delivery, should a baby still be immediately placed skin-to-skin and breastfed if the mother is confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19?
Yes. Immediate and continued skin-to-skin care improves the temperature control of newborns and is associated with improved survival among newborn babies. Placing the newborn close to the mother also enables early initiation of breastfeeding which also reduces mortality.
The numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with COVID-19.
45- Can women with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 breastfeed?
Yes. Women with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so. They should:
Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub and especially before touching the baby;
- Wear a medical mask during any contact with the baby, including while feeding;
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue. Then dispose of it immediately and wash hands again;
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces that mothers have tuched.
- It is important to replace medical masks as soon as they become damp and dispose of them immediately. Masks should not be reused or touched in the front.
46- Should I take dexamethasone to prevent COVID-19 or treat my mild symptoms of the disease?
Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, should not be taken to prevent COVID-19 or to treat mild symptoms of COVID-19. A recent study from the UK showed very promising results only for patients who were severely ill and critically ill. This study did not find any benefit in patients with mild disease, meaning those not on oxygen therapy.
Dexamethasone has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and certain cancers in combination with other drugs. It is a potent anti-inflammatory drug that suppresses the immune system and may increase the risk for other infections.
47- Should health care providers treat COVID-19 patients with dexamethasone?
A recent study conducted in the UK found that dexamethasone reduced mortality for patients on ventilators by one third, and by one fifth for patients requiring oxygen support. There was no benefit in patients with milder disease who did not require oxygen support.
WHO is waiting for the full report before making a change in recommendations, but clinicians may consider using dexamethasone for patients with severe and critical disease, as was done in this trial.
48- Why was the use of hydroxychloroquine stopped in the Solidarity Trial?
On 17 June 2020, WHO announced that the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) arm of the Solidarity Trial to find an effective COVID-19 treatment was being stopped.
The trial's Executive Group and principal investigators made the decision based on evidence from the Solidarity trial, UK's Recovery trial and a Cochrane review of other evidence on hydroxychloroquine.
Data from Solidarity (including the French Discovery trial data) and the recently announced results from the UK's Recovery trial both showed that hydroxychloroquine does not result in the reduction of mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, when compared with standard of care.
49-How should I wear and care for a fabric mask?
Using a fabric mask:
- Clean your hands before putting on the mask.
- Inspect the mask for tears or holes, do not use a mask that is damaged.
- Adjust the mask to cover your mouth, nose, and chin, leaving no gaps on the sides.
- Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
- Change your mask if it gets dirty or wet.
- Clean your hands before taking off the mask.
- Take off the mask by removing it from the ear loops, without touching the front of the mask.
- Clean your hands after removing the mask.
Caring for a fabric mask:
- If your fabric mask is not dirty or wet and you plan to reuse it, put it in a clean plastic, resealable bag. If you need to use it again, hold the mask at the elastic loops when removing it from the bag.
- Wash fabric masks in soap or detergent and preferably hot water (at least 60 degrees) at least once a day.
- If hot water is not available, wash the mask in soap/detergent and room-temperature water, followed by either boiling the mask for 1 minute OR; by soaking the mask in 0.1% chlorine for 1 minute and thoroughly rinsing the mask with room temperature water (there should not be any toxic residue of chlorine on the mask).
- Make sure you have your own mask and do not share it with others.
When and how to use masks?
Remember, the use of a fabric mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection. Maintain a minimum physical distance of at least 1 metre from others and frequently clean your hands.
If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Call before going to a health facility, and follow the directions of your local health authority.
Pregnant women and women who have recently delivered - including those affected by COVID-19 - should attend their routine care appointments.
50- I have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, is it safer to give my baby infant formula milk?
No. There are always risks associated with giving infant formula milk to newborns and infants in all settings. The risks associated with giving infant formula milk are increased whenever home and community conditions are compromised, such as reduced access to health services if a baby becomes unwell, reduced access to clean water and/or access to supplies of infant formula milk are difficult or not guaranteed, affordable and sustainable.
The numerous benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with the COVID-19 virus.
51- How long is it to cook food? To what temperature to kill the virus?
This virus is not resistant to heat than the usual viruses and bacteria found in food. As recommended for good hygiene practice, foods should be thoroughly cooked to at least 70°C. It is recommended to follow the WHO 5-Keys to Safer Food.
52- As a smoker, is my risk of getting the COVID-19 virus higher than that of a non-smoker?
Smoking any kind of tobacco reduces lung capacity and increases the risk of many respiratory infections and can increase the severity of respiratory diseases. COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other respiratory diseases. Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 outcomes and death.
53- As a smoker, am I likely to get more severe symptoms if infected?
At the time of preparing this Q&A, there are no peer-reviewed studies that have evaluated the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection associated with smoking. However, tobacco smokers (cigarettes, waterpipes, bidis, cigars, heated tobacco products) may be more possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth. Smoking waterpipes, also known as shisha or hookah, often involves the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in communal and social settings.
54- As a vaper, am I more likely to be infected with COVID-19 or to have more severe symptoms if infected?
There is no evidence about the relationship between e-cigarette use and COVID-19. However, existing evidence indicates that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS), more commonly referred to as e-cigarettes, are harmful and increase the risk of heart disease and lung disorders. Given that the COVID-19 virus affects the respiratory tract, the hand-to-mouth action of e-cigarette use may increase the risk of infection.
55- Does the BCG vaccine protect people from COVID-19?
There is no evidence at this point that the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus. Clinical trials addressing this question are underway, and WHO will evaluate the evidence when it is available. In the absence of evidence, WHO does not recommend BCG vaccination for the prevention of COVID-19. WHO continues to recommend reserving BCG for neonatal vaccination in settings with a high risk of tuberculosis.
56- What is the best household disinfectant for surfaces?
Regular household cleaning and disinfection products will effectively eliminate the virus from household surfaces. For cleaning and disinfecting households with suspected or confirmed COVID19 - surface virucidal disinfectants, such as 0.05% sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) and products based on ethanol (at least 70%), should be used.
57- What medical interventions are available for COVID-19 and influenza viruses?
While there are a number of therapeutics currently in clinical trials in China and more than 20 vaccines in development for COVID-19, there are currently no licensed vaccines or therapeutics for COVID-19. In contrast, antivirals and vaccines available for influenza. While the influenza vaccine is not effective against COVID-19 virus, it is highly recommended to get vaccinated each year to prevent influenza infection.
58- What mental health care is provided for employees at KFSH&RC during COVID-19?
COVID-19 is associated with a range of concerns, such as fear of becoming sick, being socially excluded, placed in quarantine. Symptoms of anxiety and depression are common reactions in the context of COVID-19. Mental health care is made available through making appointment with family medicine physician and a referral to mental health clinic will be made based on assessment and evaluation.
59- What is the difference between people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic? Don’t they both mean someone without symptoms?
Yes, both terms refer to people who do not have symptoms. The difference is that asymptomatic refers to people who are infected but never develop symptoms during the period of infection while pre-symptomatic refers to infected people who have not yet developed symptoms but do go on to develop symptoms later.
This distinction is important for public health strategies to control transmission. For example, laboratory data suggests that people might be the most infectious at or around the time they develop symptoms. Therefore, in WHO’s case investigation and contact tracing guidance, it is recommended that people be considered ‘contacts’ if they had contact with an infected person from 2 days before that he/she developed symptoms.
60- Is more information needed to better understand COVID-19 transmission?
Yes, COVID-19 is a new disease. While more information becomes available every day, many questions about transmission remain. A vast effort by research teams and networks around the world is underway to answer those questions.
WHO and our partners are working to gain a better understanding about:
- Different transmission routes, including through droplets of different sizes, physical contact, fomites, and the role of airborne transmission in the absence of aerosol generating procedures
- The dose of virus required for transmission to occur
- Characteristics of people and situations that facilitate super spreading events such as observed in some closed settings;
- Proportion of infected people who remain asymptomatic throughout the course of their infection
- Proportion of truly asymptomatic persons who transmit the virus to others
- The specific factors that drive asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission
- Proportion of all infections transmitted from asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals.
61- What is the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace?
The risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace depends on the likelihood of coming within 1 metre of others, in having frequent physical contact with people who may be infected with COVID-19, and through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects.
62- Does WHO recommend thermal testing of people entering a workplace?
Temperature screening cannot detect all cases of COVID-19, since infected individuals may not have fever early in the course of infection or illness, such as during the incubation period or just before other symptoms begin, even though they may already be infectious. Some people may reduce fever with a fever-reducing medication if they are concerned about the possible consequences of not coming to work. Relying on temperature screening alone will not stop the spread of COVID-19 at work.
Thermal screening at the workplace can be considered part of a package of measures to prevent and control COVID-19 at the workplace. Workers should be encouraged to self-monitor their health, possibly with the use of questionnaires, and take their own temperature regularly at home. Workplaces should adopt "stay at home if unwell" and flexible sick leave policies to discourage workers with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 from coming to the workplaces.
63- Can fans be used safely in indoor spaces?
At home, table or pedestal fans are safe for air circulation among family members living together who are not infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. However, fans should be avoided when people who are not part of the immediate family are visiting, since some people could have the virus despite not having symptoms. Air blowing from an infected person directly at another in closed spaces may increase the transmission of the virus from one person to another.
At home, offices or school, if the use of table or pedestal fan is unavoidable, it is important to increase outdoor air changes by opening windows and minimize the air blowing from one person (or group of people) to another person (or group of people).
The use of ceiling fans can improve circulation of outside air and avoid pockets of stagnant air in occupied space. However, it is critical to maintain good outdoor ventilation when using ceiling fans. An efficient way to increase outdoor air exchange is by opening windows.
64- Do air conditioning and ventilation systems increase the risk of virus transmission? If so, how can this be managed?
Air conditioning and ventilation systems that are well-maintained and operated should not increase the risk of virus transmission. Fans are safe in single occupancy rooms. Fans for air circulation in collective spaces should be avoided when several people are present in this space.
All air conditioning and industrial ventilation systems for both residential and high occupancy buildings (government buildings, schools, hotels, and hospitals) should be inspected, maintained, and cleaned regularly to prevent transmission. Even in well-ventilated environments, people should continue following recommendations of physical distancing and frequent hand hygiene. Set temperatures between 24oC/75 oF and 27oC/ 80.5oF for cooling during the warmer weather, and RH between 50% and 60%.
If the use of fans is unavoidable, increase outdoor air exchange, and minimize air blowing from one person directly at another should be taken to reduce the potential spread of any airborne or aerosolized viruses.
65- How can ventilation reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 in airplanes?
Some airplanes have cabin air filtration systems equipped with HEPA filters which can remove viruses and germs quickly, minimizing the duration of the exposure to any potential infectious materials produced by a cough or sneeze. The cabin air system is designed to operate most efficiently by delivering approximately 50 percent outside air and 50 percent filtered, recirculated air. The air supply is essentially sterile and particle-free. However, adequate ventilation is just one of the preventive measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Other important measures include maintaining physical distance of at least 1 meter whenever possible, frequent hand hygiene and wearing a mask. Passengers should check with the airline company and the national or local guidelines about when and where to wear a mask while flying.
66- Who should not travel?
People with confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 cases should be in isolation and not traveling. Anyone who has had contact with someone else confirmed with COVID-19 cases should be in quarantine and not travel. People aged 60 and over, and those with serious chronic illnesses or underlying health conditions should try to postpone travel, or take special precautions and wear a medical face mask continuously throughout the travel. Check the destination country for policies on what kind of tourism travel is allowed.
67- The travel company is asking me to wear a mask while traveling. Which kind of mask should I use?
You should follow the advice of your travel company. If the type of mask is not specified then people 60 years and over, and those who have underlying health conditions, should wear a medical mask while traveling. This provides greater protection from others who may have the virus.
People who feel healthy and have no symptoms can wear a fabric mask to prevent any virus they may have from spreading to others.
Remember that wearing a mask does not provide full protection. You should always combine this with frequent hand cleaning, covering a cough or sneeze with a bent elbow or tissue, and maintaining at least a 1 metre distance from others wherever possible.
Find out how to choose and wear a mask here.
68- When should a patient with COVID-19 be cared for at home?
Ideally, all patients with COVID-19 are cared for in a healthcare facility. However, there may be some circumstances where patients may not require hospitalization or inpatient care is unavailable or unsafe, such as when capacity is insufficient to meet the demand for healthcare services. Patients should be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the health worker to determine where their care needs can best be met.
69- What factors determine whether a COVID-19 patient can be cared for at home?
Patients with mild or moderate disease can be considered for home care if the home setting is suitable for the isolation and care of a COVID-19 patient, and if the patient is under the age of 60, does not smoke, is not obese, and does not have other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, cancer, chronic kidney disease, immunosuppression. An assessment about home care for each patient should be based on the following factors:
- Clinical evaluation of the patient.
- Evaluation of the patient’s home setting according to infection prevention and control (IPC) criteria (e.g., ability to carry out hand and respiratory hygiene, environmental cleaning, adequate ventilation, limitations on movement around or from the house).
- Presence of vulnerable people at higher risk of COVID-19 in the home.
- Ability of a caregiver to provide care and closely monitor the evolution of the patient’s health, at least once per day, and to recognize signs and symptoms of any worsening of the health status.
- Availability of trained health workers to support the patient and caregiver (home-based, phone, telemedicine, trained community workers or outreach teams).
If adequate isolation from others in the home and infection prevention control measures cannot be ensured, then isolation in designated community facilities or a health facility may need to be arranged, with consent from the patient and in agreement with the caregiver and household members.
It is important to note that in areas with other endemic infections that cause fever, such as influenza, malaria, dengue, etc., febrile patients should seek medical care, be tested and treated for those endemic infections per routine protocols, irrespective of the presence of respiratory signs and symptoms.
Home care does not replace healthcare by professionals. Those patients who receive homecare should be regularly monitored by health workers.
70- What should be done to prevent other people in the house from becoming sick if a person with COVID-19 is being cared for at home?
There are a number of precautions that can prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other people in the house:
- The ill person should stay in a separate room; if this is not possible, then keep at least a 1-metre distance from him or her.
- Provide good ventilation in the room of the ill person and shared spaces, and open windows if possible and safe to do so.
- The ill person should wear a medical mask as much as possible, in particular when not alone in the room and when a 1-metre distance from others cannot be maintained.
- Visitors should not be allowed in the home.
- Limit the number of caregivers to one person with no underlying conditions, if possible
- Caregivers and household members should wear a medical mask while in the same room with an ill person, not touch their mask or face during use, discard the mask after leaving the room, and wash their hands afterward.
- The ill person should have dedicated dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels and bed linens. They should be washed with soap and water, and not shared.
- Frequently touched surfaces by the ill person should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily.
- Everyone in the household should wash their hands with soap and water regularly, especially:
- after coughing or sneezing
- before during and after you prepare food
- before eating
- after using the toilet
- before and after caring for the ill person
- when hands are visibly dirty
- A cough or sneeze should be covered with a flexed elbow or a disposable tissue that is discarded immediately after use.
- The waste from the ill person should be packed in strong closed bags before disposal.
71- I am ATTENING a small gathering or an event such as a wedding, a party or sports tournament. What precautions should I take to protect myself and others from getting infected with COVID-19?
- Always check local regulations before attending an event.
- Stay at home if you are feeling unwell
- Always comply with the following 3 basic preventive measures:
- Maintain at least 1 metre distance from others, and wear a mask if you cannot guarantee this distance.
- Cover a sneeze or cough with a tissue or bent elbow, and immediately dispose of tissue in a closed-lid bin. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or with a hand sanitizer.
72- I am ORGANIZING a small gathering or an event such as a wedding, a party or sports tournament. What precautions should I take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among guests?
- Always check local guidelines before planning your event.
- Brief guests about precautions before the event starts; during the event, remind guests of these precautions and ensure they are followed.
- Choose outdoor venues over indoor spaces – if indoors, ensure the area is well-ventilated.
- Minimize crowding by staggering arrivals and departures, numbering entries, designating seats/places and marking the floor to ensure physical distancing between people of at least one meter.
- Provide all necessary supplies – hand hygiene stations, hand sanitizer or soap and water, tissues, closed-lid bins, distance markers, masks.
73- Are pools and water areas safe to use?
Gym, beach, swimming pool, spa, sauna and steam bath facilities can be used safely with certain restrictions, as determined by national guidelines. In particular, look for the following measures:
- a maximum number of people allowed to ensure adequate physical distancing
- fabric mask policies required by local or national regulations
- hand washing stations, especially in the toilet and change room areas
- single use towels only
- a bin for guests to place their towel after use for laundering
- individual use drinking water
- tissues and waste containers with lids
- high touch areas such as door handles disinfected regularly throughout the day
74- Can you get the virus from people who were in the room previous to you?
Hotels and other accommodations should have procedures for cleaning, disinfecting and ventilating the room properly between every guest’s stay. These processes allow the accommodations to be used immediately afterward. If these procedures are followed, there is no need to leave the room empty between guests.
75- Are there precautions to take while eating in a restaurant?
There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted by food, including fresh fruits and vegetables. The virus can be killed while cooking food at temperatures of at least 70°C.
Food buffets are not recommended because of the risk of close physical contact with others, shared serving implements and multiple people touching the surfaces on the buffet. Indoor dining spaces should have a maximum of 4 people in 10 square metres. The distance from the back of one chair to the back of another chair should be at least 1 metre apart for both indoor and outdoor dining, and guests that face each other should also be at this distance.
Guests should be reminded when entering and leaving the area to clean their hands. When the physical distance of at least 1 metre cannot be guaranteed, masks are recommended to be worn by staff and guests.
More on masks, including who should wear what kind and when, is available here.
76- Should children wear a mask?
WHO advises that people always consult and abide by local authorities on recommended practices in their area. An international and multidisciplinary expert group brought together by WHO reviewed evidence on COVID-19 disease and transmission in children and the limited available evidence on the use of masks by children.
Based on this and other factors such as children's’ psychosocial needs and developmental milestones, WHO and UNICEF advise the following:
Children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks. This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.
WHO and UNICEF advise that the decision to use masks for children aged 6-11 should be based on the following factors:
- Whether there is widespread transmission in the area where the child resides
- The ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask
- Access to masks, as well as laundering and replacement of masks in certain settings (such as schools and childcare services)
- Adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off and safely wear masks
- Potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development, in consultation with teachers, parents/caregivers and/or medical providers
- Specific settings and interactions the child has with other people who are at high risk of developing serious illness, such as the elderly and those with other underlying health conditions
WHO and UNICEF advise that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.
More on the types of masks, how to choose them, and how to wear them is available here.
77- Are there alternatives to fabric masks such as face shields for children?
In the context of COVID-19, some children may not be able to wear a mask due to disabilities or specific situations such as speech classes where the teacher needs to see their mouths. In these cases, face shields may be considered an alternative to masks, but they do not provide the equivalent protection in keeping the virus from being transmitted to others.
If a decision is made to use a face shield, it should cover the entire face, wrap around the sides of the face and extend to below the chin. Caution should be taken while wearing one to avoid injuries that could break it and harm the eyes or face.
78- Are there any herbal teas or herbal supplements that may help prevent or cure COVID-19?
No. There is currently no evidence to support the use of herbal teas or herbal supplements to prevent or cure COVID-19.
79- Can probiotics help prevent COVID-19?
No. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are generally added to foods or used as a supplement to the diet to confer a health benefit. However, there is currently no evidence to support the use of probiotics to help prevent or cure COVID-19.
80- Can adding pepper to your soup or other meals help prevent or cure COVID-19?
No. There is no evidence that adding hot peppers to your food can prevent or cure COVID-19.
81- What precautions should everyone take in a hotel or other accommodation establishment?
Everyone should follow basic precautions:
- Wash all parts of your hands frequently (at least 20 seconds if using an alcohol-based hand rub, and at least 40 seconds with soap and water), including after exchanging objects such as money or credit cards. Look for hand sanitizer stations and use them before going into dining halls, restaurants or bars.
- Cover a cough or sneeze with a bent elbow or tissue, and throw away the tissue in a closed bin.
- Maintain at least a 1 metre distance from staff and other guests. This includes avoiding hugging, kissing, or shaking hands. If you can’t guarantee the distance, wear a mask. Be sure to check local and national guidelines on the use of masks.
82- How long should people with COVID-19 stay at home and in isolation?
People with COVID-19 who are cared for at home should stay in isolation until they are no longer able to transmit the virus to others:
- Those with symptoms should stay isolated for a minimum of 10 days after the first day they developed symptoms, plus another 3 days after the end of symptoms – when they are without fever and without respiratory symptoms.
People without symptoms should stay isolated for a minimum of 10 days after testing positive.
83- What is serology?
‘Serology’ is the study of antibodies in blood serum.
‘Antibodies’ are part of the body’s immune response to infection. Antibodies that work against SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – are usually detectable in the first few weeks after infection. The presence of antibodies indicates that a person was infected with SARS-CoV-2, irrespective of whether the individual had severe or mild disease, or no symptoms.
‘Seroprevalence studies’ are conducted to measure the extent of infection, as measured by antibody levels, in a population under study. With any new virus, including SARS-CoV-2, initial seroprevalence in the population is assumed to be low or non-existent due to the fact that the virus has not circulated before.
84- What do we know about immunity from COVID-19?
Most people who are infected with COVID-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks after infection.
Research is still ongoing into how strong that protection is and how long it lasts. WHO is also looking into whether the strength and length of immune response depends on the type of infection a person has: without symptoms (‘asymptomatic’), mild or severe. Even people without symptoms seem to develop an immune response.
Globally, data from seroprevalence studies suggests that less 10% of those studied have been infected, meaning that the vast majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus.
For other coronaviruses – such as the common cold, SARS-CoV-1 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – immunity declines over time, as is the case with other diseases. While people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus develop antibodies and immunity, we do not yet know how long it lasts.
Watch this conversation with Dr Mike Ryan and Dr Maria Van Kerkhove for more information on immunity.
85- What is herd immunity?
Herd immunity’, also known as ‘population immunity’, is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.
Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.
Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease, known as ‘antibodies’, just as would happen when we are exposed to a disease but – crucially – vaccines work without making us sick. Vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease in question and passing it on, breaking any chains of transmission. Visit our webpage on COVID-19 and vaccines for more detail.
With herd immunity, the vast majority of a population are vaccinated, lowering the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population. As a result, not every single person needs to be vaccinated to be protected, which helps ensure vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated are kept safe.
The percentage of people who need to have antibodies in order to achieve herd immunity against a particular disease varies with each disease. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is about 80%.
Achieving herd immunity with safe and effective vaccines makes diseases rarer and saves lives.
Find out more about the science behind herd immunity by watching or reading this interview with WHO’s Chief Scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan.
86- What is an immunity passport or a risk-free certificate and what is WHO’s view of this?
Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an "immunity passport" or "risk-free certificate" that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection. At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an "immunity passport" or "risk-free certificate." That is, there is currently no evidence to determine whether or not people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.
87- What is WHO’s position on ‘herd immunity’ as a way of fighting COVID-19?
Attempts to reach ‘herd immunity’ through exposing people to a virus are scientifically problematic and unethical. Letting COVID-19 spread through populations, of any age or health status will lead to unnecessary infections, suffering and death.
The vast majority of people in most countries remain susceptible to this virus. Seroprevalence surveys suggest that in most countries, less than 10% of the population have been infected with COVID-19.
We are still learning about immunity to COVID-19. Most people who are infected with COVID-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or lasting that immune response is, or how it differs for different people. There have also been reports of people infected with COVID-19 for a second time.
Until we better understand COVID-19 immunity, it will not be possible to know how much of a population is immune and how long that immunity last for, let alone make future predictions. These challenges should preclude any plans that try to increase immunity within a population by allowing people to get infected.
Although older people and those with underlying conditions are most at risk of severe disease and death, they are not the only ones at risk.
Finally, while most infected people get mild or moderate forms of COVID-19 and some experience no disease, many become seriously ill and must be admitted into hospital. We are only beginning to understand the long-term health impacts among people who have had COVID-19, including what is being described as ‘Long COVID.’ WHO is working with clinicians and patient groups to better understand the long term effects of COVID-19.
88- What about rapid tests?
Rapid tests (sometimes known as a rapid diagnostic test – RDT) detect viral proteins (known as antigens). Samples are collected from the nose and/or throat with a swab. These tests are cheaper than PCR and will offer results more quickly, although they are generally less accurate. We are still learning about how well they perform and when to use them.
89- What happens to people who get seriously ill?
Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. About 20% of those who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and require oxygen, with 5% becoming critically ill and needing intensive care.
Complications leading to death may include respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis and septic shock, thromboembolism, and/or multiorgan failure, including injury of the heart, liver or kidneys.
In rare situations, children can develop a severe inflammatory syndrome a few weeks after infection.
90- Who is most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19?
People aged 60 and over, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity or cancer, are at higher risk of developing serious illness.
However, anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age.
91- What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission. These people are called contacts. Contact tracing for COVID-19 requires identifying people who may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and following them daily for 14 days. The goal is to stop transmission of the virus by reducing the number of people who are circulating with the virus.
92- Who is defined as a contact?
A contact is defined as anyone who had direct contact or was within 1 meter for at least 15 minutes with a person infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, even if the person with the confirmed infection did not have symptoms. Contacts should remain in self-quarantine during the 14-day monitoring period to limit the possibility of exposing other people to infection should they become ill.
93- Can contact tracing help in controlling spread of the virus?
Yes, when systematically applied, contact tracing will break the chains of transmission, meaning that the virus transmission can be stopped. Contact tracing is thus an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19.
94- Should I use a digital contact tracing app while traveling?
Digital apps are now available in some countries to identify and inform travelers who may have been in contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19 or had a positive test for COVID-19. They are effective only if a large proportion of the general population uses the app. International travelers may have issues of compatibility and data sharing when crossing borders. Those considering an app are advised to review the legal and ethical aspects related to individual privacy and personal data protection.
95- What precautions should I take during travel?
During travel, everyone should clean hands frequently, cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue, and try to maintain a physical distance of at least one meter from others. Travelers should follow the recommendations of the travel authorities regarding policies in the airport and of the airline for the flight.
96- Should I get a test before departure or upon arrival?
Laboratory PCR testing (molecular testing for SARS-CoV-2) immediately prior to departure or on arrival may provide information about the status of travelers. However, laboratory results should be interpreted with caution, since a small proportion of false negative and false positive results may occur. If conducted, testing should be accompanied by a comprehensive COVID-19 follow up, for example, by advising departing travelers who have been tested to report any symptoms to local public health authorities. If the testing is conducted on arrival, all travelers should be provided with an emergency phone number in case symptoms develop. A relevant case management protocol should be followed in case of a positive test.
97- What should I do after arriving at my destination?
Travelers should self-monitor for any symptoms for 14 days after arrival. Report any symptoms and your travel history to local health facilities and follow national protocols. If you are confirmed to have COVID-19, you will be placed in isolation in a health facility or in self-isolation at home, depending on the country’s policies, and asked to provide a list of your contacts in the last 14 days. Your contacts will be placed under quarantine.
98- What should I do if I get sick while traveling?
If you become ill during your travel, inform your travel attendant (plane, ship, train, etc.). You may be moved to a seat farther away from others.
Ask for information on how to be seen by a health care provider and seek care immediately.
Wear a mask continuously while you travel, frequently clean your hands with hand sanitizer, cover a cough or sneeze with a bent elbow or tissue, and maintain at least a 1 meter distance from others wherever possible. You should stop travelling as soon as feasible.
If you are told you must quarantine or self-isolate yourself in a specific place, you should be provided with free, appropriate facilities and care, and not be asked to stay longer than 14 days.
99- Do weather and climate determine where COVID-19 occurs?
No. There is currently no conclusive evidence that either weather (short term variations in meteorological conditions) or climate (long-term averages) have a strong influence on transmission. The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 disease has been transmitted in all regions of the world, from cold and dry, to hot and humid climates.
SARS-CoV-2 is thought to be mainly transmitted directly from person-to-person through close contact, or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People may be infected by touching exposed surfaces, but this is not thought to be a major transmission route. While temperature and humidity may influence how long the virus survives outside of the human body, this effect is likely to be small compared to the degree of contact between people.
Physical distancing and washing hands are therefore essential to breaking the chain of transmission, and are the most effective way to protect yourself, in all locations and all seasons of the year.
100- I want to find out if I had COVID-19 in the past, what test should I take?
Antibody tests can tell us whether someone has had an infection in the past, even if they have not had symptoms. Also known as serological tests and usually done on a blood sample, these tests detect antibodies produced in response to an infection. In most people, antibodies start to develop after days to weeks and can indicate if a person has had recent (IgM type antibodies) or past infection (IgG type). Antibody tests cannot be used to diagnose COVID-19 in the early stages of infection or disease. They also cannot alone confirm immunity or duration of protection from reinfection.
101- What is WHO doing to help accelerate COVID-19 vaccine research?
WHO is one of the leaders (with Gavi and CEPI) of a global effort known as COVAX, which is speeding up the search for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines by pooling resources from many different countries. This includes the COVAX Facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of eventual COVID-19 vaccines. In addition to investing in vaccine research and development, COVAX is helping scale up vaccine manufacturing capabilities and committing to buy vaccine doses if vaccines are shown to be safe and effective, with the goal of distributing 2 billion doses where they’re needed most, worldwide, by the end of 2021.
COVAX is the vaccine pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
In addition, WHO is setting up "Solidarity" clinical trials that will efficiently evaluate potential COVID-19 vaccines at sites across the globe.
More information about WHO’s work on COVID-19 vaccine research and development is available here.
102- What are human challenge studies? What is WHO's view on these studies?
In a regular vaccine study, one group of volunteers at risk for a disease is given an experimental vaccine, and another group is not; researchers monitor both groups over time and compare outcomes to see if the vaccine is safe and effective.
In a human challenge vaccine study, healthy volunteers are given an experimental vaccine, and then deliberately exposed to the organism causing the disease to see if the vaccine works. Some scientists believe that this approach could accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development, in part because it would require far fewer volunteers than a typical study.
However, there are important ethical considerations that must be addressed – particularly for a new disease like COVID-19, which we do not yet fully understand and are still learning how to treat; it may be difficult for the medical community and potential volunteers to properly estimate the potential risks of participating in a COVID-19 human challenge study. For more information, see this WHO publication on the ethics of COVID-19 human challenge studies.
103- Are there treatments for COVID-19?
Scientists around the world are working to find and develop treatments for COVID-19.
Optimal supportive care includes oxygen for severely ill patients and those who are at risk for severe disease and more advanced respiratory support such as ventilation for patients who are critically ill.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid that can help reduce the length of time on a ventilator and save lives of patients with severe and critical illness. Read our dexamethasone Q&A for more information.
Results from the WHO’s Solidarity Trial indicated that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients.
Hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to offer any benefit for treatment of COVID-19. Read our hydroxychloroquine Q&A for more information.
WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop treatments for COVID-19 and will continue to provide new information as it becomes available.
104- Are there long-term effects of COVID-19?
Some people who have had COVID-19, whether they have needed hospitalization or not, continue to experience symptoms, including fatigue, respiratory and neurological symptoms.
WHO is working with our Global Technical Network for Clinical Management of COVID-19, researchers and patient groups around the world to design and carry out studies of patients beyond the initial acute course of illness to understand the proportion of patients who have long term effects, how long they persist, and why they occur. These studies will be used to develop further guidance for patient care.
105- Can people who have had SARS-CoV-2 infection be re-infected?
To date, there are some reports of individuals who have been reinfected with SARS-CoV-2. There are likely to be more examples of reinfection reported and scientists are working to understand the role of the immune response in the first and second infection. WHO is working with scientists to understand each occurrence of reinfection and the antibody response during the first and subsequent infections.
106- What is the difference between molecular testing and serologic testing?
‘Molecular testing’, including polymerase-chain reaction (PCR) testing, detects genetic material of the virus and so can detect if a person is currently infected with SARS-CoV-2.
‘Serologic testing’ detects antibodies against a virus, measuring the amount of antibodies produced following infection, thereby detecting if a person has previously been infected by SARS-CoV-2. Serologic tests should not be used to diagnose acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, as antibodies develop a few weeks after infection.
107- Does the presence of antibodies mean that a person is immune?
There are many studies underway to better understand the antibody response following infection to SARS-CoV-2. Several studies to date show that most people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop antibodies specific to this virus. However, the levels of these antibodies can vary between those who have severe disease (higher levels of antibodies) and those with milder disease or asymptomatic infection (lower levels of antibodies). Many studies are underway to better understand the levels of antibodies that are needed for protection, and how long these antibodies last.
108- Are there certain settings where COVID-19 can spread more easily?
Any situation in which people are in close proximity to one another for long periods of time increases the risk of transmission. Indoor locations, especially settings where there is poor or no ventilation, are riskier than outdoor locations.
Transmission can occur more easily in the "Three C’s":
- Crowded places with many people nearby;
- Close-contact settings, especially where people have conversations very near each other;
- Confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.
The risk of COVID-19 spreading is higher in places where these "3Cs" overlap.
In health facilities, some medical procedures, called aerosol generating procedures, can produce very small droplets (called ‘droplet nuclei’ or ‘aerosols’) that can stay suspended in the air for longer periods of time. This is why health workers performing these procedures take specific airborne protection measures, including using appropriate personal protective equipment, including respirators, and why visitors are not permitted in areas in which these procedures are being performed.
109- I want to find out if I had COVID-19 in the past, what test could I take?
Antibody tests can tell us whether someone has had an infection in the past, even if they have not had symptoms. Also known as serological tests and usually done on a blood sample, these tests detect antibodies produced in response to an infection. In most people, antibodies start to develop after days to weeks and can indicate if a person has had past infection. Antibody tests cannot be used to diagnose COVID-19 in the early stages of infection or disease but can indicate whether or not someone has had the disease in the past. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. About 20% of those who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and require oxygen, with 5% becoming critically ill and needing intensive care. Complications leading to death may include respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis and septic shock, thromboembolism, and/or multiorgan failure, including injury of the heart, liver or kidneys.
110- What does it mean to say a virus mutates or changes?
When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit. These changes are called "mutations." A virus with one or several new mutations is referred to as a "variant" of the original virus.
The more viruses circulate, the more they may change. These changes can occasionally result in a virus variant that is better adapted to its environment compared to the original virus. This process of changing and selection of successful variants is called "virus evolution."
Some mutations can lead to changes in a virus’s characteristics, such as altered transmission (for example, it may spread more easily) or severity (for example, it may cause more severe disease).
Some viruses change quickly and others more slowly. SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, tends to change more slowly than others such as HIV or influenza viruses. This could in part be explained by the virus’s internal "proofreading mechanism" which can correct "mistakes" when it makes copies of itself. Scientists continue to study this mechanism to better understand how it works.
111- Should I be concerned about SARS-CoV-2 changing?
It is normal for viruses to change, but it is still something scientists follow closely because there can be important implications. All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time. So far hundreds of variations of this virus have been identified worldwide. WHO and partners have been following them closely since January 2020.
Most changes have little to no impact on the virus’ properties. However, depending on where the changes are located in the virus’s genetic material, they may affect the virus’s properties, such as transmission (for example, it may spread more easily) or severity (for example, it may cause more severe disease).
WHO and its international network of experts, are monitoring changes to the virus so that if significant mutations are identified, WHO can report any modifications to interventions needed by countries and individuals to prevent the spread of that variant. The current strategies and measures recommended by WHO continue to work against virus variants identified since the start of the pandemic.
The best way to limit and suppress the transmission of COVID-19 is for people to continue taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe.
112- What is WHO doing to monitor and understand the changes in SARS-CoV-2?
Since the start of the outbreak, WHO has been working with a global network of expert laboratories around the world to support testing and better understanding of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Research groups have sequenced SARS-CoV-2 and shared these on public databases, including GISAID. This global collaboration allows scientists to better track the virus and how it is changing.
WHO’s global SARS-CoV-2 laboratory network includes a dedicated SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group, which aims to detect new mutations quickly and assess their possible impact.
WHO recommends that all countries increase the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses where possible and share sequence data internationally to help one another monitor and respond to the evolving pandemic.
113- How do we know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe?
There are strict protections in place to help ensure the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines. Before receiving validation from WHO and national regulatory agencies, COVID-19 vaccines must undergo rigorous testing in clinical trials to prove that they meet internationally agreed benchmarks for safety and effectiveness.
Unprecedented scientific collaborations have allowed COVID-19 vaccine research, development, and authorizations to be completed in record time – to meet the urgent need for COVID-19 vaccines while maintaining high safety standards. As with all vaccines, WHO and regulatory authorities will continuously monitor the use of COVID-19 vaccines to confirm that they remain safe for all who receive them.
"proofreading mechanism" which can correct "mistakes" when it makes copies of itself. Scientists continue to study this mechanism to better understand how it works.
114- What are the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines?
Like any vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines can cause mild side effects, such as a low-grade fever or pain or redness at the injection site. Most reactions to vaccines are mild and go away within a few days on their own. More serious or long-lasting side effects to vaccines are possible but extremely rare. Vaccines are continually monitored to detect rare adverse events.
Reported side effects to COVID-19 vaccines have mostly been mild to moderate and short-lasting. They include: fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, diarrhea, and pain at the injection site. The chances of any of these side effects following vaccination differ according to the specific COVID-19 vaccine.
WHO and its international network of experts, are monitoring changes to the virus so that if significant mutations are identified, WHO can report any modifications to interventions needed by countries and individuals to prevent the spread of that variant. The current strategies and measures recommended by WHO continue to work against virus variants identified since the start of the pandemic.
The best way to limit and suppress the transmission of COVID-19 is for people to continue taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe.
115- What happens if an adverse event is reported?
As with any vaccine, it is essential to closely monitor the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines as they are delivered. If a problem is reported following vaccination, a thorough investigation should take place.
During these investigations, it is extremely rare that health problems are found to be caused by the vaccine itself. Adverse events are most often found to be coincidental and may be entirely unrelated to vaccination. Sometimes they are related to how the vaccine has been stored, transported, or administered. Such errors can be prevented by better training health workers and strengthening supply chains.
In the very rare cases where a genuine adverse reaction is suspected, the vaccine may be suspended from use. Further investigations will take place to determine what exactly caused the event, and corrective measures will be put in place. WHO works with vaccine manufacturers, health officials and other partners to monitor any safety concerns and potential side effects on an ongoing basis.
116- Under what circumstances should a COVID-19 vaccine be recalled?
Vaccine recalls or withdrawals due to safety issues are rare. Recalls are usually initiated voluntarily by a vaccine manufacturer before any adverse events are reported. For example, ongoing monitoring of vaccine production may show that an irregularity has caused a batch of vaccines to lose their strength. In this case, people who have received a vaccine from that batch may need to be vaccinated again to ensure they are protected.
117- How will WHO inform the public about suspected or confirmed adverse events related to COVID-19 vaccines?
Suspected safety events officially reported to WHO go through a series of rapid verification steps involving an independent panel of experts. WHO shares the results of these evaluations on its website.
WHO also coordinates with local, regional, and national health officials to investigate vaccine safety concerns and advise on next steps. Information is also made available through the Vaccine Safety Net, a publicly available network of digital international resources on vaccine safety that have been approved by WHO.
118- Is it possible that someone vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get infected?
While several COVID-19 vaccines appear to have high levels of efficacy, no vaccine is 100% protective. As a result, there may be a small percentage of people who do not develop protection as expected after COVID-19 vaccination.
In addition to a vaccine's specific characteristics, several factors such as a person's age, their underlying health conditions or previous exposure to COVID-19 may have an impact on a vaccine’s effectiveness. We also do not yet know how long immunity from different COVID-19 vaccines will last. That is one reason why, even as COVID-19 vaccines start to be rolled out, we must continue using all public health measures that work, such as physical distancing, masks, and handwashing.
119- Who should be excluded from receiving COVID-19 vaccines?
Medical professionals can best advise individuals on whether or not they should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. However, based on available evidence, people with the following health conditions should generally be excluded from COVID-19 vaccination in order to avoid possible adverse effects:
- If you have a history of severe allergic reactions to any ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccine
- If you are currently sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, though you can get vaccinated once your primary symptoms have resolved.
Further research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of different COVID-19 vaccines in certain population groups. In addition to the general recommendations above, each vaccine may have specific considerations for specific populations and health conditions.
120- Is it safe for pregnant women, those planning to become pregnant, and breastfeeding mothers to receive COVID-19 vaccines?
Based on what we know about these vaccines; we don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women. While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe COVID-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy.
For this reason, those pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g., health workers) or who have comorbidities which add to their risk of severe disease may be vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider.
It is not yet clear whether COVID-19 vaccines can be excreted through breastfeeding. To determine the best course of action, the developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother’s clinical need for immunization against COVID-19. WHO does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination.
Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology Questions and Answers
1- I have checked Altakhassusi application and my COVID-19 test result is positive, what should I do?
Stay at home and do not leave unless absolutely necessary, such as going to the hospital.
Wear a mask and keep your social distance.
The system will automatically clear you,after 5 days from the initial positive result
2- As an employee with COVID-19, when can I return to work?
Infected employees are expected to return to work after 5 days if they have not experienced any symptoms in the previous 24 hours.
3- I tested positive for COVID-19, and I still have symptoms on day 5 - what should I do?
You must schedule an appointment with Family Medicine Urgent Care Virtual Follow-up Clinic via the Altakhassusi application or by calling Ext: 23005 for further medical evaluation
4- I had a contact with a known positive employee, patient, friend, or relative, what should I do?
If you believe that you had contact with a positive case:
Notify your supervisor
Complete the contact tracing survey
The system will send you the risk level and the instructions via email
5- I was exposed to a positive COVID-19 case and I was considered to be low-risk exposure based on the contact tracing survey, what should I do?
You can report to work.
Note: COVID-19 PCR test will not be performed unless the employee develops symptoms.
6- I was exposed to a positive COVID-19 case and I was considered to be high-risk exposure based on the contact tracing survey, what should I do?
You can report to work
Monitor yourself for symptoms.
If you develop symptoms, schedule an appointment with Family Medicine Urgent Care Follow-up or Virtual Follow-up Clinic via the Altakhassusi app or by calling Ext: 23005 for further medical evaluation, or report to the Emergency Department after 5 p.m. if it is an emergency.
7- One of my family members is COVID-19 positive (tested outside). As a KFSH&RC healthcare worker, what should I do?
Notify your supervisor
Complete the contact tracing survey
The system will send you the risk level and the instructions via email
8- I am a healthcare worker who has tested positive for COVID-19. I want to screen all my family – what should I do?
Eligible Family members will not be screened unless the physician requests screening of the symptomatic members.
9- As a KFSH&RC employee reporting back to work after my annual leave. What should I do?
No COVID test is required, you can report back to work.
This page includes information from World Health Organization.