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Frequently Asked Questions on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Frequently Asked Questions on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
2020-06-09
  1. What is novel infectious disease?
  2. What is a coronavirus?
  3. What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
  4. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
  5. What is the mode of transmission of COVID-19?
  6. What is incubation period? How long is it for COVID-19?
  7. What is the treatment for COVID-19?
  8. A novel coronavirus is found to be the causative agent of COVID-19. Is there no cure?
  9. Is the death rate very high for COVID-19?
  10. Will there be no symptom for COVID-19? Will patients die suddenly on the street?
  11. Will COVID-19 disappear spontaneously when the weather becomes warm?
  12. How to prevent COVID-19?
  13. What preventive measures should be taken when travelling outside Hong Kong?
  14. What is the function of mask?
  15. Can young children wear a face mask?
  16. What are the other measures to prevent respiratory tract infection other than wearing a mask?
  17. After cleaning the hands with water and liquid soap, how should the faucet be turned off?
  18. If there is no water and liquid soap, can I use alcohol-based handrub instead?
  19. What are cough manners?
  20. Why is it important to properly maintain drainage pipes and regularly re-fill U-traps?
  21. Is ozone disinfection effective?
  22. Should consumers sanitise food packaging?

1.  What is novel infectious disease?

Novel infectious disease is an infectious disease that has newly appeared in a human population. It may be caused by any infectious agents such as virus, bacteria or parasites which the human population has low or no pre-existing immunity. It may result in mortality and morbidity of different severity and may cause sustained community outbreak or proceed to a pandemic.

2.  What is a novel coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

3.  What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

“Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” refers to the cluster of viral pneumonia cases occurring in Wuhan, Hubei Province, since December 2019. According to investigation by the Mainland health authorities, a novel coronavirus is found to be the causative agent.

4.  What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, malaise, dry cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhoea, loss of taste or smell, skin rash or discolouration of fingers or toes. Some people become infected but only have very mild or non-specific symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, about 20% of the cases may develop serious illness with breathing difficulty. People of older age or having underlying diseases (e.g. hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or cancer) are at a higher risk of deterioration into serious condition.

5.  What is the mode of transmission of COVID-19?

The main mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets, the virus can also be transmitted through contact.

6.  What is incubation period? How long is it for COVID-19?

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 to 14 days, most commonly around 5 days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.

7.  What is the treatment for COVID-19?

The main treatment is supportive.

8.  A novel coronavirus is found to be the causative agent of COVID-19. Is there no cure?

There is no specific treatment. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and therefore treatment based on the patient’s clinical condition. Moreover, supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.

9.  Is the death rate very high for COVID-19?

Please refer to: the latest available information.

On the other hand, both Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), are respiratory tract disease caused by coronavirus. The former carries a death rate of about 9.6% while that of the latter exceeds one third.

10. Will there be no symptom for COVID-19? Will patients die suddenly on the street?

According to information provided by the Mainland health authorities, symptoms of the cases include fever, malaise, dry cough and shortness of breath. Some cases were in serious condition. People of older age or having underlying disease are at a higher risk of deterioration into serious condition.

When having respiratory symptoms, wear a surgical mask, refrain from work or attending class at school, avoid going to crowded places and seek medical advice promptly, take the initiative to inform the doctor of any recent travel history and any exposure to animals, so that appropriate management can be given at the earliest possible time.

11. Will COVID-19 disappear spontaneously when the weather becomes warm?

A study found that coronaviruses typically survive longer and stay active longer at lower temperatures in a dry environment.

12. How to prevent COVID-19?

Members of the public are urged to go out less and reduce social activities such as meals gatherings or other gatherings, and maintain appropriate social distance with other people as far as possible.

To maintain at all times strict personal and environmental hygiene is key to personal protection against infection and prevention of the spread of the disease in the community:

  • Surgical mask can prevent transmission of respiratory viruses from ill persons. It is essential for persons who are symptomatic (even if having mild symptoms) to wear a surgical mask;
  • Wear a surgical mask when taking public transport or staying in crowded places. It is important to wear a mask properly, including hand hygiene before wearing and after removing a mask;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose;
  • Perform hand hygiene frequently, especially before touching one's mouth, nose or eyes; before eating; after using the toilet; after touching public installations such as handrails or door knobs; or when hands are contaminated by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing;
  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of soiled tissues into a lidded rubbish bin, then wash hands thoroughly;
  • Wash hands with liquid soap and water, and rub for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse with water and dry with a disposable paper towel. If hand washing facilities are not available, or when hands are not visibly soiled, performing hand hygiene with 70 to 80% alcohol-based handrub is an effective alternative;
  • Maintain drainage pipes properly and regularly (about once a week) pour about half a litre of water into each drain outlet (U-traps) to ensure environmental hygiene;
  • Cover all floor drain outlets when they are not in use;
  • After using the toilet, put the toilet lid down before flushing to avoid spreading germs; and
  • When having respiratory symptoms, wear a surgical mask, refrain from work or attending class at school, avoid going to crowded places and seek medical advice promptly.

13. What preventive measures should be taken when travelling outside Hong Kong?

Members of the public are strongly urged to avoid non-essential travel outside Hong Kong. If it is unavoidable to travel to countries/areas outside Hong Kong, they should put on a surgical mask and continue to do so for 14 days upon their return to Hong Kong. The public should take heed of the health advice below:

  • When travelling to countries/areas with active community transmission of COVID-19 virus, the public should avoid close contact with persons with fever or respiratory symptoms. If it is unavoidable to come into contact with them, put on a surgical mask and continue to do so until 14 days after returning to Hong Kong;
  • Avoid visiting hospitals. If it is necessary to visit a hospital, put on a surgical mask and observe strict personal and hand hygiene;
  • Avoid touching animals (including game), poultry/birds or their droppings;
  • Avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms;
  • Avoid making close contact with patients, especially those with symptoms of acute respiratory infections;
  • Do not consume game meat and do not patronise food premises where game meat is served;
  • Adhere to food safety and hygiene rules such as avoiding consuming raw or undercooked animal products, including milk, eggs and meat, or foods which may be contaminated by animal secretions, excretions (such as urine) or contaminated products, unless they have been properly cooked, washed or peeled;
  • If feeling unwell when outside Hong Kong, especially if experiencing a fever or cough, wear a surgical mask, inform the hotel staff or tour escort and seek medical advice at once; and
  • After returning to Hong Kong, consult a doctor promptly if experiencing a fever or other symptoms, take the initiative to inform the doctor of any recent travel history and any exposure to animals, and wear a surgical mask to help prevent spread of the disease.

14. What is the function of a mask?

Wearing mask can protect ourselves and prevent the spread of infection to others. A mask covers nose and mouth. It provides a physical barrier to fluids and large particle droplets. Surgical mask (mask) is a type of face mask commonly used. Most surgical masks adopt a three-layer design which includes an outer fluid-repelling layer, a middle layer serves as a barrier to germs, and an inner moisture-absorbing layer. Mask without the above functions is not recommended as it cannot provide adequate protection against infectious diseases transmitted by respiratory droplets.

The general indications for wearing a surgical mask include:

  • To protect ourselves: When taking care of person with respiratory infection; or visiting hospitals or clinics during peak season for influenza;
  • To prevent the spread of infection to others: When having respiratory symptoms, e.g. fever, runny nose, cough or sneeze.

15. Can young children wear a face mask?

Choose the appropriate mask size. Child size is available for selection as indicated:

  • Face mask (including surgical masks and cloth face coverings) is not recommended for children under the age of 2 years without supervision;
  • For newborns and young children under 2, there would be a chance of suffocation or other health risks if face mask is not properly used. In addition, young children like to touch or pull the mask on their face which increase the chance of infection;
  • Parents are advised to let infants and young children stay at home as much as possible and avoid bringing them to unnecessary social gathering or playgrounds. If there is a need to go out, choose less crowded places and remember to keep the social distance between children and other people, and avoid touching things around;
  • Caretaker should ensure their own hygiene before handling young children. Keep your hands clean and wear mask when feeding your baby.

16. What are the other measures to prevent respiratory tract infection other than wearing a mask?

The following preventive measures, apart from wearing a mask, should be emphasised:

  • Hand hygiene is the single most important measure of reducing the spread of diseases. Members of the public should perform hand hygiene properly and frequently, especially before touching eyes, nose and mouth;
  • They are advised to clean hands with liquid soap and water when they are visibly soiled or likely contaminated with blood and body fluid. When hands are not visibly soiled, could be cleaned them with 70 to 80% alcohol-based handrub;
  • Maintain respiratory etiquette and cough manners;
  • Stay at home if got sick and minimise contact with others;
  • Stay away from possible sources of infection:
    • Minimise unnecessary social contacts and avoid visiting crowded places. If this is necessary, minimise the length of stay whenever possible. Moreover, persons at a high risk of having infection-related complications, e.g. pregnant women or persons with chronic illnesses are advised to wear a mask; and
    • Avoid close contact with the infected persons.

17. After cleaning the hands with water and liquid soap, how should the faucet be turned off?

When the hands are cleaned, do not touch the water tap directly again. For example, one may use a paper towel to wrap the faucet before turn it off.

18. If there is no water and liquid soap, can I use alcohol-based handrub instead?

If your hands are not visibly soiled, you can use 70 to 80% alcohol-based handrub. It can effectively prevent cross transmission of infectious diseases via hands. The hand rubbing technique of using alcohol-based handrub is similar to hand washing. Use sufficient amount, around 3 to 5 ml of alcohol-based handrub to cover all surfaces of your hands. We rub our palms, then back of hands, finger webs, back of fingers, thumbs, finger tips, and then wrists. Rub for at least 20 seconds until your hands are dry. Let the alcohol dry on your hands, do not wipe it off with paper towel. Check the expiry date of alcohol-based handrub before using.

19. What are cough manners?

Cover your mouth and nose with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of soiled tissues into a lidded rubbish bin, then wash hands thoroughly. If tissue paper is not available, you can cover your mouth and nose with your blouse or upper sleeve.

20. Why is it important to properly maintain drainage pipes and regularly re-fill U-traps?

U-traps serve to stop foul smells and unhygienic substances (including bacteria and viruses) in the drainage system from entering living areas. Defective or dried U-traps could negate this important function.

Pour half a litre of water into each drain outlet every week. Besides, one should regularly inspect their drainage pipes, U-traps and sanitary fittings and arrange immediate repair if damage is found. Water should also be added to the U-traps regularly to ensure they functioned properly.

21. Is ozone disinfection effective?

Ozone irritates the eyes and respiratory tract. It can cause serious damage to the lung if inhaled in high concentrations.

If used at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone applied to indoor air does not effectively remove viruses, bacteria, mold, or other biological pollutants.

22. Should consumers sanitise food packaging?

The risk of acquiring the novel coronavirus through food packaging is very low. In fact, contaminated hands play a significant role in facilitating indirect contact transmission by transferring the infectious virus from one surface to another and even into one’s body. Instead of food packaging, transmission is more likely to happen in contact with certain high-touch points, such as door handles, handles of the shopping trolleys and water taps – the more frequently being touched by different people the higher the risk that it becomes contaminated. Therefore, while some people may still opt to disinfect food packaging surfaces with common household disinfectants such as alcohol-based wipes or sprays if needed, it is more important for people to wash their hands thoroughly, especially before touching eyes, nose and mouth, after returning home from grocery shopping, and after handling and storing purchased products.