Questions and answers on COVID-19

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19

Coronavirus is globally, an unprecedented challenge which raises many questions. How do I catch COVID-19? How is it treated?

To help with answering your questions we have gathered the most frequently asked questions with answers from experts.

Our answers are based on the current scientific information as of April 8, 2020.

For further information and daily updates please visit the websites of Robert Koch Institute and the Federal Centre for Health Education.

  • COVID-19

    What does COVID-19 stand for?

    Coronaviruses have been known for many decades. There are four pathogens, which typically only cause the common cold. Three pathogens (SARS 1, SARS 2, MERS) can lead to severe disease progression. However, the novel Coronavirus was not identified until the end of 2019. At the moment it is assumed that animals were responsible for the transmission to humans.

    In humans, these viruses cause varying diseases and symptoms ranging from a simple cold to potentially fatal respiratory failure.

    In science, the Coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2 and if there is an infection in a human, the disease is called COVID-19.

  • How is Coronavirus transmitted?

    The virus that causes COVID-19 (coronavirus) is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air. They quickly fall on floors or surfaces.

    You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within 1 metre of a person who has COVID-19 or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.

  • What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

    Most patients complain of the typical symptoms of a common cold, such as fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat or a cold. However, other symptoms have also been observed. For example, diarrhoea, loss of taste or muscle pain can occur. Likewise, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck area can occur and skin changes have also been described.

    However, an infection can also be completely asymptomatic or with few symptoms. You are still contagious during this time, so keeping a minimum distance of 2 metres from other people is very important, even if you feel healthy!

  • Am I or any of my relatives particularly at risk?

    People at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from Coronavirus (COVID-19) are people over the age of 80 years old. However the risk starts to increase for those over the age of 50 years and those with a pre-existing medical condition:

    • Chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs)
    • Weak immune system (e.g. due to immunodeficiency, radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer or after an organ transplant)
    • High blood pressure
    • Cardiovascular diseases
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Liver disease
    • Obesity
    • Other serious (chronic and malignant) underlying diseases
  • What exactly does incubation time mean?

    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 1-14 days. Therefore the quarantine period is 14 days and any persons who has been in contact with someone who has coronavirus must stay at home for at least 14 days.

  • Can I get a Coronavirus test?

    If you do not have any symptoms and feel well, you should not be tested at first, so that the available testing resources are used for priority testing.

    If you have been in contact with a person who is proven to be infected, you should be tested. In this case, contact your GP, the public health department or the on-call service of the statutory health insurance companies by telephone on the nationwide number 116 117.

    How is the test carried out? Will you take blood samples?

    As the virus is present in the respiratory tract, a swab from the throat or nose is taken.

    This is then sent to a laboratory and the result is usually available within about 24 hours, and the specialist in charge will be informed. If the result is positive, the institution that carried out the test is obliged to inform the public health department of the city concerned. The person tested is then subject to immediate quarantine measures for a period of at least 14 days, unless hospitalisation is necessary.

    If a person has recovered from Coronavirus, a blood test can be taken to detect antibodies. This will is an important test as we progress through the pandemic as it confirms if you have had the virus and if you have developed immunity.

  • Wash your hands regularly

    How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

    With one of the newly licensed vaccines, the vaccination is currently the best protection against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Plus, the following existing prevention measures offer the best protection:

    • Wash your hands regularly: Using soap, wash your hands for at least 30 seconds, rinse carefully under running water and dry thoroughly. In public toilets, use a disposable towel or your elbow, if possible, to close the tap.
    • Comply with cough etiquette standards: When coughing or sneezing, keep a maximum distance from other people and if possible face away. Sneeze or cough into a disposable tissue or the crook of your arm and avoid using your hand for protection, as viruses and bacteria are dispersed unnecessarily.
    • Reduce all contact as much as possible. Keep a distance of 1.5m to 2 m.

    Does a mask protect against infection?

    There are different types of masks–with and without DIN-based filter properties.

    The so-called filtering face piece (FFP) masks–1, 2 and 3–have different DIN-standardised filter properties. It is important that the mask fits well on the user. However, these masks should be reserved for professional auxiliary staff.

    The simpler surgical face masks or self-sewn protective face masks reduce the risk of transmission for the user due to their filtering properties in the presence of infected persons. Also in this case, it is crucial that the mask fits properly, i.e. it fits tightly over the mouth and nose. Although these masks do not provide complete protection, if people infected with Coronavirus wear the masks, the risk of transmission to others is significantly reduced.

    These masks were also originally designed to reduce respiratory virus transmission. They are intended to protect patients in hospitals, especially in the operating theatres.

  • How is COVID-19 treated?

    There is currently no specific treatment for the coronavirus. However, there are several options available to treat the symptoms.

    In the case of fever, patients are given antipyretic drugs as well as anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain and high temperature.

    If there is an accompanying bacterial infection, a targeted antibiotic treatment can also be used.

    If breathing difficulties occur, it is essential to contact a specialist and then the appropriate diagnostics would be carried out to decide on the therapy required.

    This could mean oxygen being administered and further treatment measures may be necessary, such as respiratory therapy - the patient would then be required to be admitted to an intensive care unit. This is where patients can be put on a ventilator machine and/or other specialist intensive care equipment along with intensive medical assistance.

    • Hygiene: Especially after visiting a public space, including public transportation, wash your hands thoroughly (approx. 30 seconds) with soap, rinse them under running water and dry them carefully.
    • Comply with the cough and sneeze etiquette standards.
    • Reduce contact with other people and avoid it as much as possible.
    • Maintain minimum distance to one another (1.50-2 m recommended)
    • Exercise and practice sports in open spaces
    • Healthy diet: Eat lots of fruit and vegetables to supply important vitamins and minerals to strengthen the immune system.
    • For chronically ill people (e.g. allergy sufferers, asthmatics, diabetics), make sure that your medication is well adjusted and take it regularly.
    • Avoid smoking: Smoking weakens the lungs, which is why smokers are among the risk group.