Outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus
Since the end of December 2019, a novel coronavirus has been spreading from the Hubei province in China and has reached many countries worldwide. Unlike an epidemic, which is a regionally occurring contagious disease, a pandemic is a worldwide epidemic. That is the case of this novel coronavirus, named recently SARS-CoV-21), which causes the disease COVID-19. You can find an overview of the coronavirus-risk areas on the WHO website (World Health Organisation).
The virus spreads typically via small droplets which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. Another person can then catch the virus by breathing in these droplets or touching objects contaminated by these droplets and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth2). The currently known incubation period is max. 14 days2).
What preventive measures to take
Containment can only be achieved through sensible behavior and the observance of general hygiene measures and especially of hand hygiene.
It is not yet clear how long the novel coronavirus remains infectious on surfaces and objects. Studies suggest that it may persist for at least a few hours and up to several days3). We suggest cleaning objects regularly with disinfectant products.
How to reduce the risk of getting infected - tips for everyday life
No handshaking or cheek kissing
Even if it seems rude at first, refrain from shaking hands with each other. Avoid physical contact in general.
Clean your hands frequently
Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially before preparing food, before eating, or you come home. Always wash your hands after using the toilet or if your hands are visibly dirty. Learn here how to wash or disinfect your hands properly.
Keep your hands away from your face
Pathogens can easily pass from your hands to the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid touching your face.
Hygienic coughing and sneezing
When coughing, “hand over mouth” is well intended, but in doing so you catapult a large number of viruses out of your body, which then sticks to your hands. So do not cough into your hands, but rather into your sleeve or a tissue.
Discard used tissues immediately
Throw used tissues into the trash right away – preferably into a container with a garbage bag that you can close tightly and dispose of regularly. Then wash your hands.
In closed rooms, the number of viruses in the air can increase dramatically.
Regularly ventilating a room (three to four times a day for ten minutes) counteracts this and thereby reduces the risk of infection.
It also improves the indoor climate and prevents the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose from drying out.
Keep your distance and avoid crowds
Keep the greatest possible distance from other people when someone is coughing (at least 1,5 meter) to avoid breathing in droplets, which could include the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, if the person is infected.
Pay attention to first symptoms
If you have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, see a doctor as soon as possible. Important: Call beforehand so that you are directed straight to the right health facility and thus avoid coming into contact with too many people. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Do not share objects
Avoid sharing objects and touching surfaces in public spaces as it is known that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 remains on surfaces4). If you think an object may be infected or contaminated, clean it using a surface disinfectant followed by washing your hands.
When to use a face mask
The WHO recommends wearing a face mask only when you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection or when you are coughing or sneezing yourself. In this case, the mask is to protect people around you. If you wear a mask, you should know how to use it. The video below explains when the use of a face mask is recommended and how it should be used.
Face masks: when and how to use it
1) "Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it"; https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/naming-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-2019)-and-the-virus-that-causes-it
2) "How does Covid-19 spread?"; https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
3) "How long is the incubation period of Covid-19? https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
4) How long does the virus survive on surfaces? https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses