W.H.O. answers to some typical COVID-19 questions

Washing hands using regular soap and water is effective against COVID-19. Remember to wash between fingers, the backs of your hands and around your nails.

By now we should all be familiar with how we can catch the coronavirus and what we should do to try to avoid catching it. Health officials advise people to wash their hands regularly, avoid touching their faces and disinfect their homes daily to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. For the curious, preliminary research indicates that COVID-19 can live for up to three hours in the air, four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and three days on plastic and stainless steel.

But there are still a number of question that keep getting asked and quite a few false answers taking root. Here is some information taken directly from a rather reliable source — The World Health Organization:

Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from COVID-19

Does sesame oil block the new coronavirus from entering the body?

No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the virus from surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform. However, they have little or no impact on the skin or under your nose. It can be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.

How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new coronavirus?

Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new coronavirus. However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. This is because it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?

Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages

Can pets at home spread COVID-19

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

Can the new coronavirus be transmitted through mosquito bites?

To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitos. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Or through droplets of saliva of discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.

Can the new coronavirus survive in hot and humid climates?

Yes, COVID-19 has spread to countries with both hot and humid climates, as well as cold and dry. Wherever you live, whatever the climate, is important to follow precautions. Wash your hands frequently and cover mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze with a tissue or a bend elbow. Throw the tissue in the bin and wash your hands immediately.

Are hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus?

No. Hand dryers are not effective in killing the new coronavirus To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol- based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.

Can ultraviolet disinfection lamp kill the new coronavirus?

UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.

Does smoking have an effect on the new coronavirus infection COVID-19?

Smoking does not protect against COVID-19. In fact, smoking is deadly. More than 8 million people die each year as a result of tobacco use. People with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, which can be exacerbated by smoking, are at higher risk of severe COVID-19.

Does COVID-19 spread through the air (e.g. through air conditioning or via e-cigarette emissions)?

Current evidence suggests the new coronavirus spreads primarily through close contact with an infected person or the droplets released when they cough or sneeze.

These released droplets typically travel less than a meter and do not hang in the air but can settle on surfaces. This is why it is important to wash hands and cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

Can the smoke and gas from fireworks and firecrackers prevent COVID-19?

No. Breathing in the smoke and gas from a firework or firecracker is dangerous and does not kill the new coronavirus. The smoke from fireworks and firecrackers contain Sulphur dioxide, a mildly toxic gas that some people are allergic to. It can irritate your eyes, nose, throat and lungs and could even cause an asthma attack. Also, you risk getting burned if you are near enough to a firework to breathe in its smoke.

Does drinking alcohol prevents the new coronavirus?

No. Drinking alcohol does not protect you from COVID-19 infection. Alcohol should always be consumed in moderation, and people who do not drink alcohol should not start drinking in an attempt to prevent COVID-19 infection

Can spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kill the new coronavirus?

No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eye, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.

Is there risk of being infected with the new coronavirus by touching coins, banknotes or credit cards and other objects?

With proper hand cleaning, the risk of being infected with the new coronavirus by touching objects, including coins, banknotes is reduced. Best protection is to clean your hands frequently with alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. An object may be contaminated with the new coronavirus by an infected person coughing or sneezing or touching the object. Preliminary information suggests the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces for a few hours or more.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

WHO advise people of all age to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?

No, Antibiotics do not work against viruses, only against bacteria. The new coronavirus is a virus and therefore antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. However, if you are hospitalized for the COVID-19, you may receive antibiotics since bacterial co-infection is possible.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?

To date there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus. However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range of partners.

Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?

No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.

The virus is new and different and it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus and WHO is supporting the efforts.

Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with new coronavirus?

No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus. There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.

If drinking water alleviates a sore throat, does this also protect against COVID-19 infection?

While staying hydrated by drinking water is important for overall health, it dose not prevent coronavirus infection. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider. If possible, call ahead so your health care provider can prepare for your visit.

What type of disinfectant can I use to wipe down surfaces to protect against COVID-19?

If a surface is dirty, first wipe it down with regular household soap or detergent and rinse with water. Then use a regular household disinfectant like bleach – its active ingredient (sodium hypochlorite) kills bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Always protect your hand when using bleach (e.g. wear rubber gloves). Dilute bleach with water according to directions on the package.

What should I do if shops are sold out of hand sanitizer?

That’s okay. Washing hands using regular soap and water is also effective against COVID-19. Remember to wash between fingers, the backs of your hands and around your nails.

How do I ensure cloths and bedlinen don’t spread novel coronavirus?

Don’t carry dirty linen or cloths against your body. Wash them in hot water (between 60-90C) with laundry detergent or soap. If available, add bleach. Follow the directions on the package. Machine dry on a high temperature or dry in direct sunlight.

— World Health Organization

— A. Bonaparte

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