Where do coronaviruses come from?
Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals but some of them are also known to affect humans. After a human is infected, the virus can be transmitted through human-to-human contact.
A great variety of animals is known to be the source of coronaviruses. For example, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) originated from camels and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) originated from civet cats.
Is this virus comparable to SARS or to the seasonal flu (influenza)?
The Novel Coronavirus detected in China is genetically closely related to SARS virus.
SARS emerged at the end of 2002 in China and it resulted in more than 8000 SARS-cases reported by 33 countries in a period of 8 months. At that time, one in ten people who contracted SARS died.
At present, there is a lack of data available to indicate with certainty how severe COVID-19 is but preliminary findings indicate that it is less fatal than SARS coronavirus.
Although transmission and symptoms of influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are similar, yet the two viruses causing these infections are substantially different. For this moment, it is too early to draw conclusions on how the Novel Coronavirus spreads. However, preliminary information indicates that its mechanism of spread is more similar to SARS or pandemic influenza than spread of seasonal influenza. This may be explained by the fact that there were no prior cases of this particular infection. According to the data of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, it is estimated that each year up to 40 000 people die due to causes of influenza (flu) in Europe.
How does a person get infected with COVID-19?
Certain coronaviruses are transmitted human-to-human, usually in a close contact with a coronavirus patient, for example at home, at work or in medical treatment institution. COVID-19 can also be transmitted human-to-human contact. The virus is transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough or exhale.
The incubation period for COVID-19 (i.e. the time between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms) is currently estimated at between 2 and 14 days. The virus can be transmitted when the infected people show flu-like symptoms, however, it is suspected that some people may spread the virus sooner before they start experiencing the symptoms.
Is there a possibility that COVID-19 reaches Lithuania?
There are no direct flights from Lithuania to China. In Europe, direct flights to China are operated from Italy, France and the United Kingdom. According to risk assessment data provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the risk of getting COVID-19 into the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) is considered as medium. If strict infection prevention and control measures are applied in the EU or EEA countries, the likelihood of further spread within the community is considered to be low.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
They are similar to influenza (flu) symptoms – fever, cough, shortness of breath, other respiratory disorders, myalgia (muscle pain) and fatigue. In more severe cases it may cause pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock, kidney failure or even result in death.
Who is at a higher risk of becoming infected with the virus?
• healthcare staff providing medical aid and treatment to the people infected with COVID-19;
• family members and other persons, who closely communicate with the infected people;
• elderly people and those who have chronic diseases.
Is Lithuania prepared to accept and treat the patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19?
- Lithuania has activated emergency operations centres of the Ministry of Health and its subordinate bodies, other ministries and health care establishments, which take part in dealing with the risk of the spread of coronavirus. In this case, specialists are ready to respond to a potential threat immediately.
- 5 hospitals prepared to accept, examine and treat the patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are the following: Vilnius University hospital Santaros Klinikos Centre for Infectious Diseases and Children’s Hospital, Kaunas Clinical hospital, Klaipėda University hospital, Panevėžys Republican hospital and Šiauliai Republican hospital.
- National public health surveillance laboratory has the needed reagents in order to immediately process COVID-19 test samples. Examination results shall be received in 6–8 hours.
- Ministry of Health and doctors note that there is a flu and other respiratory diseases season at the moment in Lithuania. Therefore, it is important to remember that COVID-19 symptoms are identical to illnesses caused by other seasonal viruses, i.e. fever, cough, snuffles, pain in the joints and muscles etc. If you experience the aforementioned symptoms, yet you have not been in China and have not contacted with people diagnosed with coronavirus infection (at present, there is no such cases registered in Lithuania), then you have to consult your doctor, but there is no serious reason to suspect COVID-19.
Is there a treatment against COVID-19?
There is no specific treatment against COVID-19, therefore, symptomatic treatment is used only. Patients may be cured depending on their health condition and considering when the treatment has started. European Medicines Agency (EMA) cooperates with World Health Organization in order to find working anti-viral medication and its compounds.
What are the rules for proper hand washing?
Hand washing is essential in order to prevent from infection:
- You should wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- If soap and water are not available, you can also use alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
The virus enters your body via your eyes, nose and mouth, so avoid touching them with unwashed hands.
Are face masks effective in order to protect from coronavirus?
Face masks are recommended to sick patients, who cough and sneeze. In this case, wearing a face mask may prevent from spreading the virus in the environment. Yet, bear in mind that face masks do not stop the virus and do not prevent from infection in case of a close contact.
Can influenza vaccine protect from coronavirus?
Influenza vaccine does not protect from coronavirus.
How to protect yourself from coronavirus infections?
In order to reduce the spread of the infection, it is recommended to follow standard measures:
- frequently wash hands with warm water and soap;
- avoid touching face and eyes;
- pay attention to cough and sneeze etiquette (coughing or sneezing into a tissue or into your elbow);
- follow rules for safe food preparation (particularly when using uncooked meat and eggs);
- avoid close contact with people who experience respiratory disease symptoms (for example, coughing and sneezing).
Is it safe to travel to China at the moment?
- World Health Organization recommends do not apply travel or trade restrictions on China.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania recommends not to travel to China for some time due to the Novel Coronavirus.
- If travelers experience flu-like symptoms during the trip or within 14 days of their return, they should call the emergency number 112 immediately.
- Travelers who are planning to visit China are advised to avoid visiting wet markets, where fresh meat, fish and other perishable goods are sold, also avoid other places where live or dead animals are handled.
- It is important to avoid contact with sick persons. In particular, avoid contact with people who have experienced respiratory symptoms (cough, expectoration etc.).
- It is advised to perform proper hand washing and food hygiene, avoid contact with animals and their secretions.
- Due to the flu season, travelers are advised to vaccinate at least 2 weeks prior to travel.
Can you get infected by contacting with animals in Europe?
Current research links COVID-19 to certain types of bats, but it does not exclude the possibility of involvement of other animals. There is no evidence that pets (e.g. dogs or cats) pose a risk of infection to humans. Yet, as a general precaution, it is always advised to observe and follow basic hygiene principles when in contact with animals.
Can you get coronavirus from parcels from China?
Currently, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through objects. World Health Organization advises that there should be no restrictions on the movement of goods.
For more information about the Novel Coronavirus please visit the website of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania. You may also consult via the hotline by calling +370 618 79984 (specialists from National Public Health Center provide information a 24-hour availability).
Information was prepared by the Ministry of Health