UNICEF’s answers to frequently asked questions from adolescents and young people about coronavirus
How is coronavirus transmitted, what are the symptoms, what are the prevention measures and what to do if you get infected?
In the past week, young people had the opportunity to get information about coronavirus, preventive measures, most common concerns, but also to ask questions they are interested in by sending the message KORONAVIRUS to the U-Report Facebook page or Viber public account.
What follows are young people's frequently asked questions, as well as the answers to how coronavirus is transmitted, what the symptoms are, what the prevention measures are and what to do if you get infected.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
The virus is usually transmitted by respiratory droplets from sneezing or coughing. The disease can spread from person to person through droplets, when a person infected with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes. These droplets fall on objects and surfaces that other people touch, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth and get infected that way.
People can also become infected if they are in the immediate vicinity of an infected person. That is why it is important to keep the distance of at least one meter from the person who is ill.
Avoid handshakes, as well as hugs and kisses when greeting someone, and keep greater distance from people you talk to.
Where are the greatest chances of getting infected with this virus? Which locations have the highest risk?
There are places with more cases than others, and these data change daily. The risk is the highest in places with a large flow of people and that is why we have to be responsible everywhere and at all times.
For the current status on the number of cases and cities, visit the official website www.covid19.rs and other reliable sources of information.
What are the symptoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 and flu have many similar symptoms, which makes it harder to set this diagnosis without testing.
The most common COVID-19 symptoms are fever, fatigue and dry cough.
Some patients may have muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and have gradual onset. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and feel well.
Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without any special treatment. Approximately 1 in 5 people who contract COVID-19 become severely ill and start having difficulty breathing.
Common signs of coronavirus infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, inflammation of kidneys, and fatalities are also possible.
If you feel any of the symptoms, adhere to the rules of self-imposed quarantine, and you can get all other information through the official phone numbers of the public health institute covering the place where you reside.
Although people are the most contagious when they have symptoms (similar to the seasonal flu symptoms – fever, sneezing, coughing), there are indications that some people can transmit the virus even though they have no symptoms or before their symptoms appear, which is not uncommon for other viral infections as well.
What to do if I have the symptoms?
The Ministry of Health has informed the public that there are available telephone numbers, according to the place of residence, from 8am to 10pm for all required information, as well as for recommendations on further actions, provided by the on-duty epidemiologist.
Persons who have certain symptoms of respiratory infections and who have previously stayed in a COVID-19 affected area or have been in contact with someone who has been confirmed to be infected should be in home quarantine or receive the necessary treatment, depending on the advice of epidemiologists and doctors.
If you have respiratory tract infection symptoms (fever, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, difficulty breathing, or other), immediately put a mask over your mouth and nose, increase hand hygiene (washing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds), avoid contact with other people, use a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and call the epidemiologist of the public health institute responsible for the area where you reside (you can find phone numbers at www.covid19.rs).
How long does COVID-19 last and when can we get infected?
COVID-19 usually lasts for 5-7 days, and may last for two weeks or longer, depending on the age of the person and their medical condition.
Persons with confirmed coronavirus infection must be in quarantine, and depending on their condition, everyone will receive personalized medical care or treatment.
How long does it take for the virus to progress in the body?
The “incubation period” refers to the time between the infection and the onset of first symptoms. The average incubation period for COVID-19 is from 1 to 14 days, most often around five days.
Even people without symptoms can be carriers of the disease because they can be in the incubation period.
The time from symptom onset to worsening of the condition is 2 to 8 weeks.
What are the prevention measures?
You can reduce the chances of getting infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precaution measures:
- Regular and thorough disinfection of hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or washing hands with soap and water
- Keeping the distance of at least one meter from everyone who is coughing or sneezing
- Avoiding handshakes, hugs and kisses when greeting someone
- Avoiding gathering of a larger number of people indoors
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Making sure to cover your mouth and nose with bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Then, disposing of the used tissue in the trash can immediately after use
- Staying at home, particularly if you are feeling unwell
- Calling the public health institute covering the place where you reside if you feel any of the symptoms
- Frequent ventilation of living premises
- Maintaining regular hygiene of the living premises, and occasionally cleaning objects such as doors and knobs, mobile phone, remote control and similar with a disinfectant.
What is the desirable diet to prevent coronavirus infection?
The diet must be varied and include the intake of foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, milk and dairy products, with adequate fluid intake.
However, there is no evidence that any particular food will help fight this virus, but we need to take preventative measures – hand washing, limited contact with others, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and similar.
Can coronavirus be sexually transmitted?
According to the findings to date, COVID-19 has not been reported to be sexually transmitted, but since sexual intercourse involves close contact, kissing and touching, these are the ways of transmitting this virus.
If someone has symptoms or suspects they are infected, they need to go into self-imposed quarantine and avoid close contacts.
Sexual intercourse with strangers should be particularly avoided during the pandemic.
Are surgical masks effective in protecting against the spread of coronavirus?
Surgical masks cannot protect from coronavirus without other prevention measures.
The World Health Organization recommends the use of a mask if:
- a person coughs, has a fever, has difficulty breathing and is seeking medical help
- someone is caring for a person who is suspected of having coronavirus
Is Asepsol effective in preventing coronavirus infection?
Asepsol, used by many, is not alcohol-based and is not recommended by the World Health Organization for combating coronavirus.
Is rakia effective against coronavirus?
It is not true that consuming rakia can reduce the chance of someone getting infected.
Spraying alcohol or chlorine will not kill the viruses that have already entered the body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to the mucous membranes of the mouth and eye.
Alcohol- and chlorine-based products may be useful for surface disinfection, but they should be used in accordance with the instructions for use.
Is there a vaccine against COVID-19?
To date, there is no vaccine or special antiviral drug to prevent the spread of coronavirus and treat COVID-19.
Persons having symptoms should be hospitalized or quarantined at home, depending on epidemiologist's advice.
Although more severe cases (and even fatalities) have been recorded, most patients recover with medical care.
Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are being tested in clinical trials. The World Health Organization is coordinating the efforts to develop vaccines and drugs to prevent spreading and to treat COVID-19.
How long can the virus survive in the environment?
There are findings that the virus stays longer on solid and metal surfaces and that it is necessary to disinfect the table, floor, as well as to ventilate the premises and maintain hygiene.
All household members should have their own towel and apply prevention measures.
Once the virus enters the body, there is no way to kill it – the body has to deal with it, quarantine is mandatory and doctor's advice is required.
It is uncertain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it appears to behave like other coronaviruses.
Studies indicate that coronaviruses (including the preliminary information on the COVID-19 pathogen) may remain on surfaces for several hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. surface type, temperature or humidity in the environment).
How dangerous is COVID-19? Should we be afraid?
Infection caused by coronavirus is generally similar to the flu, but can develop into a severe illness: about 1 in every 5 people who become infected need hospital care. That is why it is perfectly normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 epidemic will affect them and their families.
While we are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people, it appears that the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart diseases, lung diseases, cancer, or diabetes) develop more severe illnesses compared to others.
We can translate our concerns into actions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. The most important thing is to follow the prevention measures.
Secondly, stay informed and follow the advice of local health officials, including any restrictions placed on travel, movement and gatherings.
Which individuals are at higher risk from the coronavirus disease?
People of all ages can become infected with coronavirus. The elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart diseases) seem to be more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus infection.
Avoid contacts with the elderly.
The elderly and people with chronic medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop a more severe illness.
Respiratory infections, such as those caused by coronavirus, can be triggers for asthma. Experts are warning those concerned about the virus to primarily follow the asthma treatment instructions. This means taking preventer inhaler as much as their doctor has prescribed. This reduces the risk of viruses, such as coronavirus, triggering asthma.
People of any sex (both girls and boys) and members of all age groups (including babies, children and young people) can become infected with coronavirus. All people have a high responsibility in preventing the spread of the virus.
How did coronavirus come about?
Coronavirus is a novel respiratory virus, and the first case in humans appeared in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Scientists are working hard to discover the origin of the virus – according to the World Health Organization, coronavirus came from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person.
Coronaviruses are a big family of viruses causing diseases ranging from common cold to severe diseases, such as MERS and SARS. COVID-19 is the disease caused by a novel coronavirus for which there is currently no specific treatment procedure or vaccine.
What is the current situation in the world and how long will the pandemic last?
On 11 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts use the term "pandemic" to describe the epidemic in multiple countries and continents at the same time.
It is not known exactly how long it will last.
Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing down or stopping the spread of the virus. However, the situation is unpredictable, so regularly check the news from reliable sources.
Can pets get infected? Do they transmit the infection?
Although there was one case of dog infection recorded to date in Hong Kong, so far there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.
COVID-19 is primarily spread in the contact with the infected person or by touching the infected surface. To protect ourselves, we need to implement prevention measures.
The World Health Organization continues to follow the latest research on this and other COVID-19 related topics and will update the information as new findings become available.
Is coronavirus a way to draw attention away from other more important things?
There are various views on how real and dangerous coronavirus really is, but the experience from other countries and the speed at which it spreads indicate that each of us has a great responsibility and that a high degree of precaution and prevention measures are needed.
What will happen to school classes?
The Serbian Government has adopted the measure of closing schools, kindergartens and faculties.
Distance learning starts on 17 March, and each school will have information about it on their website.
What is the situation in Serbia? The number of registered cases vs the number of infected people?
All data on the number of registered cases in our country and globally are changing daily and are available at the official website in Serbia www.covid19.rs.
The virus may be present in more people than registered, so it is important to follow the precaution measures.
Where can I get more information?
By calling the number 064 8945 235 (number operated by the Ministry of Health), then the Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut” at 011 2684 566 or public health institutes covering the place where you reside.
If you have the symptoms, contact your competent primary health care centre. Phone numbers are available at this link.