COVID-19 Frequently asked questions

Current case numbers, affected countries and information on international risk areas are monitored, among other institutions, by the Centers of Disease Control. Particularly affected areas in Germany can be found on the Robert Koch Institute website at www.rki.de/covid-19-fallzahlen and www.rki.de/covid-19-riskareas.

The Robert Koch Institute displays the number of cases in Germany – broken down by federal states and districts – in a so-called COVID-19 dashboard.

The main route of transmission appears to be droplet infection. This transmission can take place directly, from person to person, if droplets containing viruses reach the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract.

 A transmission by smear infection through hands, brought into contact with the oral or nasal mucosa, as well as with the conjunctiva, is another possibility. The role of smear infection is unknown. So far, infection chains have been identified which can best be explained by direct transmission.

 The new corona viruses were also found in stool samples from those affected. It has not yet been sufficiently clarified, whether the novel coronavirus can also be spread through the stool. (See also the question „How can you protect yourself from infection?“)

 

Fever and cough are the most common symptoms.

However, the complaints are non-specific, varied and vary widely. Therefore, no general statements can be made about the „typical“ course of the disease.

An infection can proceed without any signs of the disease, but it is also possible to develop severe pneumonia with lung failure and death.

The most common forms of COVID-19 are mild.

 

Fever and cough are the most common symptoms.

However, the complaints are non-specific, varied and vary widely. Therefore, no general statements can be made about the „typical“ course of the disease.

An infection can proceed without any signs of the disease, but it is also possible to develop severe pneumonia with lung failure and death.

The most common forms of COVID-19 are mild.

There is currently no vaccine available that protects against infection with the novel coronavirus. Such vaccines are being worked on intensively worldwide. However, it is not yet possible to say, when a vaccine against the novel coronavirus will be available.

The current assessment of the Robert Koch Institute on the situation in Germany can be found at www.rki.de/covid-19-risikobewertung.

It is open how many people in Germany will become infected with the corona virus. It is estimated that the virus will infect up to 70% of the population, but it is unclear how long this will take.

The effects on Germany are not predictable. According to current knowledge, only a small percentage of the disease cases are severe (see also question „Who is particularly at risk?“).

Nevertheless: If the disease spreads unchecked, this could lead to a considerable burden on the health care system in Germany.

Citizens can help slow the spread of the virus by following these recommendations:

Find out more on the websites of public bodies that offer scientific information on the new type of corona virus.

These are, for example, the pages of the Federal Ministry of Health and the state ministries of health, the Federal Center for Health Education and the Robert Koch Institute.

If necessary, the responsible local health department will also inform about the relevant situation.

Follow the guidelines and recommendations of the responsible authorities.

  • Generally, reduce contacts to others.
  • Don’t spread dubious social media information.
  • Stay at home in case of respiratory illness.
  • Practice good Hand hygieneand abide by the Cough and sneeze rules.
  • Avoid shaking hands.
  • Avoid touching your face as much as possible.
  • Keep a distance (about 1 to 2 meters) from people who visibly suffer from respiratory diseases.
  • Avoid using public transportation.
  • If possible, work from home.
  • Do neither organise, nor attend private events (birthday parties, game nights or the like).

Please also inform yourself about possible regional or local measures that have to be observed.

A leaflet with recommendations for behavior can be found on infektionsschutz.de (German) or the Centers of Disease Control (English).

You can find options for measures to reduce contacts in areas where more cases have become known on the website of the Robert Koch Institute or CDC, respectively.

The Science Media Center provides more information on how to prepare individually for a COVID-19 pandemic.

 

As with influenza and other respiratory diseases, compliance with the „Cough and sneeze rules“, good „Hand hygiene“ and distance from the sick (about 1 to 2 meters) also protect against transmission of the new coronavirus.

Shaking hands should also be avoided.

In general, people with respiratory problems should stay at home.

  • Stay at home as often as possible. In particular, in order to protect them, limit personal encounters with elderly, or chronically ill people. Instead, use more communication by phone, email, chats, etc. Also note the visiting rules for hospitals and other care facilities.
  • Air all rooms regularly and avoid touching e.g. B. shaking hands or hugs.
  • If contacts in public spaces are required, be sure to keep your distance. This is especially true for visibly ill people, especially those with respiratory symptoms.
  • If you are sick, you should not leave the house if possible. If necessary, contact your doctor by phone and arrange an appointment.
  • If someone in your household is ill, make sure that they are physically separated and at a sufficient distance from the other household members.
  • If possible, work from home – in coordination with the employer. Keep meetings with few participants, short, and in a well-ventilated area. Keep a distance of 1 to 2 meters to other people and avoid touching them. Take your meals alone, if possible (e.g. in the office).
  • If possible, do not use public transport, but preferably use your bicycle, walk or drive your own car.
  • Avoid traveling if possible – even within Germany. Many borders are closed and air traffic is restricted.
  • Also avoid crowds of people (e.g. shopping malls etc.).
  • Only visit public facilities if absolutely necessary (e.g. offices, administrations, authorities).
  • Avoid private celebrations and otherwise strictly observe hygiene rules.
  • Do not shop at peak times, but when the shops or pharmacies are less crowded or use pick-up and delivery services.
  • Help those who need help! Provide elderly or chronically ill relatives or neighbors and singles, and people in need with food and everyday necessities.
  • Adhere to the Cough and sneeze rulesand wash your hands regularly („Hand hygiene“).
  • Please be informed about possible regional or local measures that have to be observed.

A leaflet with recommendations for behavior can be found on infektions-schutz.de (CDC).

 

Although severe symptoms may occur in people without underlying conditions, the following groups of people have an increased risk of serious illness:

  • older people (with a steadily increasing risk of severe course from about 50 to 60 years)
  • Smokers
  • People with certain medical conditions:
    • of the heart (e.g. coronary heart disease)
    • the lungs (e.g. asthma, chronic bronchitis)
    • with chronic liver diseases
    • with diabetes mellitus
    • with cancer
    • with a weakened immune system (e.g. due to an illness or medication)

You can find more information and support for people at higher risk of developing a serious illness at the Robert Koch Institute or CDC.

You can find information on preventing and dealing with illnesses in the elderly and nursing homes at https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Altenpflegeheime.html. You can find material for nursing homes related to the corona virus at infektionsschutz.de (CDC).

According to existing data, symptoms in children are significantly less pronounced than in adults. There is no data on the contribution children and adolescents actually make to the transmission in the population. Due to the high infectiousness of the virus and the close contact between children and adolescents, it seems plausible that transmissions take place.

Pregnant women do not appear to have an increased risk of developing a severe illness.

So far, there is no evidence that COVID19 is transferable to the unborn child.

A transmission to the newborn child is possible through close contact and a droplet infection.

So far, however, there is no evidence of the novel coronavirus in breast milk. However, there is currently insufficient data to reliably answer these and other questions about COVID-19 in pregnancy.

The German Society for Gynecology and Obstetrics has developed tips and FAQs for pregnant women and infants (CDC).

A further spread of the new corona virus in Germany should be slowed down as much as possible. Therefore, it is necessary to identify individuals who had contact with people in whom the coronavirus has been detected, and monitor their health status for maximum 14 days, depending on their individual risk of infection, if necessary, also in domestic quarantine.

The Robert Koch Institute makes recommendations for dealing with contact persons, which can be adapted to the local situation by the responsible health authority with regard of the desired protection goals.

The health office determines the specific procedure for contact persons in individual cases. Recommendations from the Health Department may include

  • Staying at home
  • Keeping your distance from other people
  • Ensuring good ventilation of living rooms and bedrooms, and
  • Avoiding to share household items such as dishes and laundry with others without first washing them as usual.

If possible, use a private bathroom.

Hygiene articles should not be divided and laundry should be washed regularly and thoroughly as usual.

Compliance with the „Cough and sneeze rules“, the use of disposable handkerchiefs for nasal cleaning and regular „Hand hygiene“ are important, so that the virus is not spread unnecessarily.

Relatives may support the quarantined person in everyday life, for example, by making purchases.

  • Close physical contact should be avoided.
  • They can also help by ensuring good ventilation in the living and sleeping areas and by regular Hand hygiene.
  • Surfaces with which the affected person comes into contact, such as tables or door handles, should be cleaned regularly with household cleaners.

 

Anyone who is at high risk of being infected must be quarantined. This is the case, …

… if you have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within the past 14 days. Really close contact means that you have spoken to the patient for at least 15 minutes, or have been coughed or sneezed at by the patient.

… if you have visited an international risk area or particularly affected areas in Germany within the last 14 days,

… if the health department orders it.

Those who have a lower risk of being infected do not have to be quarantined. This is the case, when one …

… has been in the same room with a person with a diagnosed COVID-19 disease within the past 14 days, but without close contact

… was in an area with an increasing number of cases of COVID-19

… is working with people with underlying illnesses, e.g. B. in the hospital or in geriatric care (Yet, you should always inform your company doctor.)

And for everyone: If there are signs of a respiratory infection, please read the question „Should patients with a respiratory illness seek medical assistance, and should they be tested, even if their symptoms are only mild (coughing, sneezing, sore throat, etc.“?).

Whoever had contact with a relative, friends or acquaintances, who in turn had contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient, but is himself completely healthy, does not need to be quarantined. In this case you are not a contact person, you have no increased risk of COVID-19 disease, and you cannot infect anyone. In the case of symptoms of a respiratory disease, however, you should get a test (see also the question „Should patients with a respiratory illness seek medical assistance, and should they be tested, even if their symptoms are only mild (coughing, sneezing, sore throat, etc.?“).

 

Yes if: …

… during the past two weeks, there has been contact with a patient for whom a COVID-19 diagnosis was confirmed in the laboratory

… one was in an area with many COVID-19 diseases

… you have a pre-existing disease or a recently acquired respiratory disease is getting worse (shortness of breath, high fever, etc.)

… if you have been in contact with people working in high risk areas (e.g. in hospitals or elderly care)

Even before the test result is available, you should isolate yourself, i.e. stay at home, avoid all close contacts (less than 2 meters), maintain good „Hand hygiene“ and wear mouth protection when in contact with others (if available).

 

A laboratory test should only be carried out, if there are signs of disease.

In the case of a healthy individual, a negative test for the novel coronavirus does cannot predict, whether this person will get sick in the future.

It would also place an unnecessary burden on the laboratory capacities.

Not all diseases after infection with the novel coronavirus are severe, and in most cases reported in China, the course of the disease was mild.

The focus of treatment is currently on supportive measures, based upon the severity of clinical symptoms.

Treatment against the novel coronavirus itself is currently not available.

 

The most important and effective measures for personal protection against airborne pathogens are …

… compliance with the „Cough and sneeze rules“,

… good „Hand hygiene“, and

…keeping a distance of approx. 1 to 2 meters from suspected persons.

In view of the flu, these measures are advisable everywhere, and at any time.

If a person suffering from an acute respiratory infection needs to move around in public spaces, it may be useful to wear mouth protection to reduce the risk of infecting other people with droplets that occur when coughing or sneezing.

For optimal effectiveness, it is important that the mouth guard is properly seated. It must be worn tightly, and changed when it gets wet. It should not be moved (not even unconsciously) while being worn. Let a medical professional advise you, whether this measure is recommended in your specific case, which mask is suitable for you, and how to put the mask on, or change it, correctly.

On the other hand, there is insufficient evidence for mouth protection reducing the risk of infection for a healthy person. According to the WHO, wearing a mask in situations, where this is not recommended, can create a false sense of security. This can lead to the neglect of hygiene measures.

 

Coronaviruses, which can cause respiratory diseases, are usually airborne. If these infectious secretions reach hands, which then touch the face, for example, transmission could also take place in this way. Therefore, good Hand hygiene is an important part of prevention.

The contagiousness of surfaces depends on many different factors. Scientific studies on the subject have not yet been completed.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) answers questions about transmission risks from food and objects, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is responsible for occupational safety.

Health recommendations for trips abroad are given by the Foreign Office(CDC). Current information on the security situation in the individual countries concerned can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office on the Internet.

The Federal Center for Health Education and the Robert Koch Institute make no recommendations here and do not offer travel medical advice.

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The novel corona virus is thought to come from bats. It is not yet known whether other animal species serve as intermediate hosts of the bat-human virus.

At the beginning of December 2019, it is currently assumed that the first sufferers were infected in a market in Wuhan, in the province of Hubei, China.

The novel corona virus received the official name „SARS-CoV-2“, the respiratory disease that triggers it is known as „COVID-19“.

 

Further (technical) information on the new type of corona virus can be found on the website of the Robert Koch Institute.

The Federal Foreign Office provides current assessments of the safety of travelers to affected regions.

You can also find current assessments of the situation on the website of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Hotlines for citizens offer, among others, the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), the Independent Patient Advice Service Germany, as well as some federal states and health insurance companies.

When coughing or sneezing, turn away, while keeping at least one meter distance from other people.

It is best to sneeze or cough in a disposable handkerchief. Use this only once, and then dispose of it in a trash can with a lid.

If a cloth handkerchief is used, it should then be washed at 60° C.

 And always apply: Wash your hands thoroughly after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing!

If no handkerchief is at hand, you should hold your arm in front of your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and also turn away from other people.

 

Hands should not only be washed, if visibly dirty. You should wash your hands regularly in everyday life, especially on the following occasions:

Always after…

  • coming home
  • using the toilet
  • changing diapers, or if you have helped your child to clean after going to the toilet
  • blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • contact with waste
  • contact with animals, animal feed or animal waste

Always before …

  • meals
  • handling medication or cosmetics

Always before and after …

  • the preparation of meals and more often in between, especially if you have processed raw meat
  • contact with the sick
  • the treatment of wounds

 

Washing your hands thoroughly takes five steps:

  1. First, hold your hands under running water. You can choose the temperature, so that it is comfortable.
  2. Then soap your hands thoroughly – both ,the palms of your hands, and the back of your hands, fingertips, spaces between fingers and thumbs. Also think of your fingernails. Liquid soaps are more hygienic than soap bars, especially in public washrooms.
  3. Rub the soap gently in all areas. Washing your hands thoroughly takes 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Then rinse your hands under running water. In public toilets, use a disposable towel or your elbow to close the tap.
  5. Then dry your hands carefully, also drying the spaces between your fingers. In public toilets, disposable towels are suited best. At home, everyone should use their own towel.
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