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COVID-19: Practical Health Information for Students

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms for COVID-19 are a fever and a dry cough (experienced by a majority of those diagnosed with COVID-19). Other common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle/joint pain, phlegmatic cough, sore throat, nausea, and chills. As you can see, these symptoms are similar to those of the flu or the common cold, which means it’s easy to mistake one for the other.


Specific data: As of 20 February 2020 and based on 55924 laboratory-confirmed cases, typical signs and symptoms include: fever (87.9%), dry cough (67.7%), fatigue (38.1%), sputum production (33.4%), shortness of breath (18.6%), sore throat (13.9%), headache (13.6%), myalgia or arthralgia (14.8%), chills (11.4%), nausea or vomiting (5.0%), nasal congestion (4.8%), diarrhea (3.7%), and hemoptysis (0.9%), and conjunctival congestion (0.8%).

How does COVID-19 spread?

Only a few weeks ago the common position given by governments and health officials was that the people responsible for spreading the virus are those who are experiencing symptoms (people who are visibly ill) and gave advice about how to isolate them. However, new research is showing that people who don’t yet have any symptoms or have very mild symptoms have been responsible for spreading the virus, in the majority of cases in some countries. You still clear your throat or cough, you sneeze sometimes, you touch your mouth, and do many such things even if you’re not ill. If you happen to be carrying the coronavirus, you can be spreading it to other people without even knowing about it. That’s why even those of us who are healthy need to wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing, and #StayHome.


Best way to wash your hands

How to use hand sanitizer effectively?

Use it when you can’t wash your hands with soap and water:

How to clean your smartphone?

Research suggests that the virus causing COVID-19 can survive on hard surfaces such as glass for up to 3 days. This means you should clean your phone and other surfaces you regularly touch with good care and often.

Why do I have to stay at home?

The main point: delaying getting COVID-19 as long as possible and preventing people in risk groups from getting the virus.

Doesn’t physical activity and fresh air help avoid illness, etc.?

Being healthy and physically active may help your body to get through the illness more easily and with milder symptoms. But it does not reduce the risk of you being a carrier of the virus and infecting others.

I’m only in contact with other young and healthy people who are not likely to develop any severe symptoms even if we all get the virus. Why should we self-isolate?

While you and the people you are in direct contact with can be healthy and young and not be in risk of suffering severe symptoms of COVID-19, you can still easily be carrying the virus and spreading it to other people. The elevator buttons you touch, the cashier you greet in the shop, the pole you hold on to in the metro – all potential vectors of transmission for the virus, from you to someone elderly or with a compromised immune system.

I’m feeling good and healthy. Surely I don’t have to quarantine myself?

Staying home and using social distancing even if you do not feel sick is very important. Research suggests 2/3 of COVID-19 infections could be spread by people whose own infections are undetected. For most people, the virus causes mild or no symptoms, meaning that you could be carrying and passing on the virus to others without even knowing you had it.


I’m having symptoms of a cold or the flu. What should I do?

You should find out what the guidelines for this case are in your country. In some places, you should try to get tested for COVID-19, in others, you won’t be able to do that. If your symptoms get worse or don’t get better in 7 days, seek medical advice.

I’ve been having symptoms of a cold or the flu and I’m starting to get better. I don’t know if I have COVID-19 or not and can’t get tested. How should I behave?

You should stay in self-quarantine to avoid giving on the virus to others. According to the latest data, a person suffering from COVID-19 will most likely be contagious to others for 20 days since becoming ill with the virus, with some (potentially) spreading the virus for over a month. This means that even in case you suffer mild or no symptoms (which is common for young and healthy people), you may be spreading the virus well after you yourself get better.


Is wearing a mask effective in avoiding coronavirus? 

For people who are infected, masks can help to prevent the spread of droplets associated with respiratory illness, experts say.

“If you’re unwell and you wear a mask yes it can be effective because obviously you’re not coughing into your hand so you’re not going to shake someone else’s hand… you interrupt that method of transmission,” said MacDermott.

Masks to protect people from actually contracting the illness have to be biological grade masks, which are often pricey but other masks become damp as we breathe, and if someone were to cough on them, it could make matters worse, she added.


Easy contagion

The COVID-19 coronavirus spreads easily and exponentially. It is estimated that, without containment measures, an infected person will infect an average of 2 or 3 people.


How long are patients infected?

The length of the quarantine, 14 days, is an approximation. It is not known for how long a patient is contagious.

Sick or not, everyone is a potential carrier of the virus. Hence the importance of generalised lockdown and social distancing measures.

Chinese studies have shown that the virus can be detected in patients (and therefore potentially transmitted) for 8 to 37 days, with an average of 20 days.


Treatment and vaccines

There is no proven effective treatment. Laboratories around the world are working on clinical trials to find a vaccine, which could take more than a year to be developed and distributed.



Although summer and heat are expected to slow the pandemic in the northern hemisphere, based on available data on other viruses, it is not known whether it will spread in successive waves, as the Spanish flu did, for example.


Coronavirus in Europe: Live data tracker

Click here to see the number of confirmed cases and other COVID-19 data in Europe.

How long does the novel coronavirus survive outside the body?

Several hours to days.

The virus that causes Covid-19 is stable for several hours in tiny floating particles, known as aerosols and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March concluded that the novel coronavirus can survive four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, 48 hours on stainless steel and 72 hours on plastic.

What’s more important for preventing infection?

Frequent hand-washing.

A mask should only be worn by health workers, caregivers and individuals with respiratory symptoms such as a fever or cough, according to health authorities. There’s no conclusive evidence masks protect ordinary, healthy people going about their daily business (although a few small studies have suggested that widespread use of face masks by the public may have reduced transmission in outbreaks of other respiratory diseases). With masks in short supply, the argument is that everyone is better off if they are reserved for those who can’t avoid exposure to people who are infected or might be.

Because viruses like this one are most efficiently spread via hands, frequent and thorough hand-washing and drying is the best way to minimize the risk of infection. The use of alcohol-based sanitizer is “a good second best,” according to David Powell, a physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association. Other useful measures include avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow and disposing of any used tissues carefully.

What’s a safe distance to stay apart from someone who’s sick?

At least 3 feet (1 meter).

The Covid-19 virus can spread via respiratory droplets — spatters of liquid that are sometimes visible to the naked eye — forcefully expelled by an infected person’s cough or sneeze.

The particles are usually heavy enough to fall immediately to the ground or surrounding surfaces, which is why the WHO advises staying more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick. It recommends against shaking hands, hugging and kissing for the time being since infection can occur if virus-containing droplets reach the mouth, nose or possibly eye of someone nearby — either directly or via an unwashed hand that’s touched a fomite.

Who’s at highest risk of developing severe Covid-19 disease?

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus. However, older people and those with medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and cancer, are at greatest risk. Children are among those with the lowest risk of developing severe symptoms, yet emerging evidence suggests that infants and toddlers may also be at risk of severe complications.



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