Questions & Answers


Questions and Answers on Corona-virus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

When should I be tested for COVID-19?

Current advice for testing depends on the stage of the outbreak in the country or area where you live. Testing approaches will be adapted to the situation at national and local level. National authorities may decide to test only subgroups of suspected cases based on the national capacity to test, the availability of necessary equipment for testing, the level of community transmission of COVID-19, or other criteria.

As a resource conscious approach, it has been suggested that national authorities may consider prioritising testing in the following groups:

Do persons suffering allergies have a higher risk to develop severe COVID-19?

A large proportion of the population (up to 15-20%) reports seasonal symptoms related to pollen, the most common of which include itchy eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose and sometimes wheezing and skin rash. All these symptoms are usually referred to as hay fever, pollen allergy or more appropriately allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is commonly associated with allergic asthma in children and adults.

Is the novel coronavirus comparable to SARS or to the seasonal flu?

No. The novel coronavirus, detected in China in 2019, that causes COVID-19 is closely related genetically to the SARS-CoV-1 virus that caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, but the diseases they cause are quite different.

SARS emerged at the end of 2002, also in China, and was more deadly but much less infectious than the novel coronavirus. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

Currently, there is not enough evidence for or against the use of masks (medical or other) in healthy individuals in the wider community.

Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. Disposable face mask can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so we urge people to use masks wisely.
The inappropriate use of masks may increase the risk of infection.

How long is the incubation period for COVID-19?

The "incubation period" means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 2-14 days, most commonly around five days.

Can humans become infected with COVID-19 from an animal source?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Occasionally, people get infected with these viruses which may then spread to other people. For example, SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels. Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed.

Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?

While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID 19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks (Pflugge droplets). To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

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.

Is the source of the coronavirus known?

Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals with some of them also known to infect humans.

Bats are considered natural hosts of these viruses yet several other species of animals are also known to act as sources. For instance, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is transmitted to humans from camels, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-1 (SARS-CoV-1) is transmitted to humans from civet cats.


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