General FAQs

What are the signs and sypmtoms of Coronavirus or COVID-19?

Dr Norman Swan:
If you’re just infected with the COVID-19 virus, you may have no symptoms at all or very mild ones. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the virus and the most common symptom is a raised temperature. Other common symptoms include aches and pains often in the back, a dry cough, fatigue and loss of taste or smell. Sore throats do occur but they’re less frequent.

How is the virus spread?

Dr Norman Swan:
The most common way the COVID-19 virus spreads is via droplets from your respiratory tract when breathing out, coughing or sneezing, especially when in close or relatively close contact for a while – it’s unclear how long but some say 15 minutes. You can also catch it from surfaces. There's no question about that, but it's less common and the thing about surfaces is that's particularly where hand hygiene comes in. You touch a surface, you don't wash your hands, you touch your face and the virus gets in through your eyes, your nose and your mouth. There's also been a study and they showed that when you sneeze or cough, you expel this very turbulent air in the form of an invisible cloud which sits in the air for quite a while and helps the virus live longer. So that's why you don't want to be anywhere near somebody who's coughing and sneezing and why you do it into your elbow. Because you in theory, could walk through the cloud and catch the virus. That’s another reason why social distancing which is really physical distancing is the single most important thing that we can do to reduce this pandemic.

Is hand washing or sanistiser better for you?

Dr Norman Swan:
The best thing is soap and water and it can be non-soap detergent as well. The reason is that soap breaks down the fat that holds the virus together. And everybody watching this knows the story: washing your hands in between your fingers up to your wrists for 20-30 seconds. Hand sanitiser is good, too, but it's got to be 70% alcohol based, more than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol. You can't replace soap or alcohol with some eucalyptus oil or Sorbolene cream. It's got to be a high alcohol base, and then you wipe it on and don't wipe it off. You let it dry on your skin. That's the key with hand sanitiser. Equally, if you're actually spraying alcohol and surfaces to disinfect them, you let the alcohol dry because that process of letting it sit there for a while is really important. So you don't spread on suddenly wipe it off. Alcohol-free hand rubs have not been shown to be effective against COVID-19 and experts recommend against using them.

How can I protect myself from coronavirus?

Dr Norman Swan: What people can do individually to protect themselves against coronavirus is stay away from other people and wash or sanitise your hands regularly and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces. Don’t go out if you’ve got a cough and a cold and talk to your doctor about being tested. At home keep the surfaces clean. Strong detergent works pretty well – hydrogen peroxide, weak bleach – all those things work on surfaces to help to kill the virus.

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