COVID-19 FAQs: What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Disease

April 23, 2020
COVID-19 FAQs: What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Disease

Just because you translate for a living and were already working from home when the novel coronavirus outbreak struck doesn’t make it any less of a frightening experience. That’s why, this week, we’ve taken a break from our usual translation and localization-related blog posts and focused our time on the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through some of the most frequently asked questions about the coronavirus pandemic so that you have all the information you need at your fingertips. 


1. What Is the Official Name of the Coronavirus Disease?

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) is responsible for naming viruses. It does so based on viruses’ genetic structures. 

The ICTV named the virus that causes COVID-19 as, “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” on 11 February 2020. 

The name “COVID-19” refers to the coronavirus disease itself. This name was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 February 2020. 


2. Is Coronavirus a Disease? 

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that are characterized by their crown-like genetic structure. The “corona” part of the name comes from the Latin word for “crown.” 

According to the WHO, the coronavirus that is causing the COVID-19 disease is the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That is the name of the virus, while “COVID-19” is the name of the disease. 


3. What Is an Infectious Disease? 

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines an infectious disease as one that:

• Impairs a person’s health

• Is usually caused by a microorganism 

• Can often be spread from person to person, either directly or indirectly 


4. Is the Coronavirus Disease the Same as SARS?

No, the coronavirus disease is not the same as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). However, the virus that caused the SARS outbreak of 2003 is genetically related to the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. 


5. What Are the Types of Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that have four main sub-groupings: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are four common human coronaviruses and three other human coronaviruses. These latter three are the viruses that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), SARS and COVID-19. 

Coronaviruses can evolve, becoming novel coronaviruses for which there are (initially, at least) no vaccines available. 


6. Is the Coronavirus Disease a Pandemic? 

Yes, the coronavirus disease is a pandemic. The WHO classed it as such on 11 March 2020. 

The term “pandemic” relates to the geographical spread of an illness. When a new disease spreads around the world beyond expectations, the WHO declares it to be a pandemic. 


7. Who Is Most at Risk for the Coronavirus Disease?

The coronavirus disease (officially named COVID-19) affects some of those who are infected more seriously than others. At the time of writing, work is still underway to attempt to ascertain why this is. 

According to the WHO, some of those who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill if they become infected include:

• People with pre-existing medical conditions (particularly – but not limited to – asthma, heart disease and diabetes)

• Older people

A study published in The Lancet on 30 March 2020 confirmed the strong age gradient when it came to the patient’s risk of dying from COVID-19. It found that, while the overall case fatality ratio in China stood at 1.38%, the figure for those aged under 60 was just 0.32%. For those aged 60 and above, the fatality ratio rose to 6.4%, while for those aged 80 and above it stood at 13.4%. 


8. How Severe Is the Coronavirus Disease?

The coronavirus disease causes more severe symptoms in some patients than in others. According to the WHO, the majority of those that the COVID-19 virus infects will experience only mild or moderate respiratory illness. Most will not require special treatment and will recover fully. 

However, for those deemed to be more at risk due to their age or an underlying health condition, COVID-19 can be much more dangerous. In these cases, patients are more likely to develop acute symptoms that require treatment in hospital. 


9. What Are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus Disease? 

According to Harvard Medical School, some of those with the coronavirus disease have no symptoms at all. Others display a range of symptoms. 

Is coughing a symptom of the coronavirus disease? Yes, absolutely. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a dry cough, a fever, fatigue, body ache and loss of appetite. 

In more severe cases, COVID-19’s symptoms can include a high fever and severe cough, as well as shortness of breath. This latter can indicate pneumonia. 

Although experts are not clear why, COVID-19 can also cause a range of neurological symptoms, including loss of sense of smell and taste, dizziness, delirium, confusion, muscle weakness, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, seizures, and stroke.

Some of those who have been infected also report gastrointestinal symptoms, from abdominal pain and nausea to vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Is headache a symptom of the coronavirus disease? It can be, though it is less common than a fever or a cough. A WHO study found that 13.6% of a sample of 55,924 laboratory confirmed cases reported a headache as one of their symptoms. That compared with 87.9% of cases experiencing a fever, 67.7% experiencing a dry cough and 38.1% experience fatigue. 


10. Is the Coronavirus Disease More Severe than the Flu?

Yes, the coronavirus disease is more severe than seasonal flu. The mortality rate for seasonal flu in the US stands at around 0.1%. For the coronavirus disease, the mortality rate stands at approximately 1%. 

According to Professor Steven Riley, co-author of a study from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, while the COVID-19 mortality rate is “lower than diseases such as Ebola or SARS, it is considerably higher than seasonal influenza.”


11. What Should You Do if You Think You Have the Coronavirus Disease?

If you think you have the coronavirus disease, you should strictly follow the guidelines issued by the authorities in your country. 

In the UK, for example, if you have symptoms that you believe may be due to COVID-19, you must not leave your home. You must not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Instead, those with suspected COVID-19 can use online and telehealth services provided by the country’s National Health Service (NHS). 

Those showing symptoms are required to self-isolate at home for seven days. If the fever persists beyond the seven days, the person must remain in isolation. Anyone else living in the property must self-isolate for 14 days. 

You can still work if you think you have coronavirus disease, if you feel well enough and your homeworking setup enables you to do so. For many translators, interpreters and other freelancers who provide services online or over the phone, this can help to minimise income disruption. To discover more about phone interpretation during times of health crisis, click the link below. 

Read more: Phone Interpreters: Remote Interpretation in the Time of Pandemics


12. What Happens When You Get the Coronavirus Disease?

If you catch the coronavirus disease, you are likely to develop signs and symptoms (as detailed above) within an average of five to six days. Fever is the most likely symptom. 

Around 80% of those infected with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms, 13.8% have severe symptoms and 6.1% have critical symptoms. 


13. How Does the Coronavirus Disease Spread? 

A number of studies and models are underway to investigate further how the coronavirus disease spreads. One Chinese study, for example, examined air conditioning-related airflow within a restaurant where nine diners became infected, while the other 73 did not. Each study helps to piece together the overall picture. 

Can the coronavirus disease spread through air? Yes, it can, as the above-mentioned study demonstrates. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets. This can take place when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes and the droplets enter another person’s mouth, nose or possibly lungs. One Japanese study found that virus-carrying microdroplets can linger in the air for 20 minutes or more in an enclosed space after someone coughs. 

Can you contract the coronavirus disease by touching a surface? Again, the answer is yes. If you touch a surface that has the virus on it, then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you are at risk of becoming infected. 

How long does the coronavirus last on surfaces? A study from the National Institutes of Health found that the virus was detectable for up to three days on certain surfaces (plastic and stainless steel) while on other surfaces it lasted for less time (up to 24 hours on cardboard, for example). 


14. How Can You Prevent the Spread of the Coronavirus Disease?

Different countries are using different methods to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are:

• Frequent hand washing, using soap and water

• Frequent hand cleaning with alcohol-based hand sanitiser

• Covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing

• Avoiding contact with anyone with a fever and cough

Social distancing measures are also proving effective. 

Are masks effective against the coronavirus disease? Many countries recommend the use of face masks to prevent the spread of the disease. At the time of writing, Germany became the latest country to make masks compulsory, with all states requiring their use on public transport and nearly all making them compulsory when shopping. 

The use of face masks has been embraced by some and rejected by others, but the latest scientific evidence shows that they may well be effective in reducing the spread of some coronaviruses. A study published in the journal Nature Medicine in April 2020 found that, “…surgical face masks could prevent transmission of human coronaviruses and influenza viruses from symptomatic individuals.”

Why do I need to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing? The WHO states that, “the COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.” As such, staying away from those who are coughing or sneezing reduces the risk of virus transmission. 

For further information on how different countries are attempting to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease, click on the link below. 

Read more: Coronavirus Crisis Handling Around the World


15. Is There a Vaccine for the Coronavirus Disease?

There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus disease, though countries around the world are racing to develop one. According to Gavi (The Vaccine Alliance), researchers are currently working on at least 70 candidate vaccines for COVID-19, with five already being tested in human clinical trials as at 16 April 2020. 

One of those five – with the catchy name of Ad5-nCoV – has made it to Phase 2 (of three total phases) of testing. Developer Cansino Biologics Inc, based in Tianjin, is undertaking clinical trials on 108 patients in Wuhan, China. 


16. Is the Coronavirus Disease Zoonotic? 

Yes. It is believed that the virus that causes COVID-19 was originally transmitted from animals to humans. The WHO also states that there have been instances of pets of COVID-19 patients becoming infected with the disease. 


17. Is the Coronavirus Disease New? 

Yes. The WHO states that:

“Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.”


18. Can Babies Get the Coronavirus Disease? 

Yes. People of all ages, including children and babies, can catch the coronavirus disease. However, John Hopkins Medicine reports that the disease appears to be much milder in younger patients. 

The British Paediatric Surveillance Unit is currently undertaking a study to find out more about the effects of COVID-19 in babies, including whether the disease is transmitted during pregnancy, labour and/or birth. 

If you are care for children with the coronavirus disease and they are well enough to play, you can click the link below to discover a range of entertaining language games. 

Read more: 15 Language Games and Activities for Family Fun at Home


19. Can Women with the Coronavirus Disease Breastfeed? 

Yes, women with COVID-19 can breastfeed. However, they should take steps to try and prevent the spread of the infection to their baby, such as practicing robust hand and respiratory hygiene. 

The WHO cites a study from Wuhan, China, which found that breastmilk samples at first lactation tested negative for COVID-19, but the study was limited to just six participants. Other studies have been similarly limited, though more research is underway at the time of writing. 


20. What Should Schools Do During an Outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease? 

Schools in each country should follow their own government’s guidelines on whether to stay open or to close and on how to respond to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease. If closed, schools should aim to support parents to educate their children at home if possible, while also understanding that parents who work may have very limited time/resources to do so.  

Read more: The COVID-19 Pandemic: Revolutionizing Learning Norms


21. What is the Recovery Time for the Coronavirus Disease?

The WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease study reports that the median time from onset to clinical recovery is approximately 2 weeks for mild cases of COVID-19. For severe or critical cases of the disease, the recovering time is usually between three and six weeks. 


22. What is the Incubation Period of the Coronavirus Disease?

The incubation period of a disease is the time between a person catching the disease and experiencing symptoms of it. For COVID-19, the CDC states that symptoms may appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus. 


23. Can Antibiotics Treat the Coronavirus Disease?

No. The WHO confirms that antibiotics do not work against viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. 


24. Do Vaccines Against Pneumonia Protect Against the Coronavirus Disease?

No, vaccines against pneumonia do not protect against the coronavirus disease. COVID-19 is a new and different virus and the WHO states that, as such, it needs its own vaccine


25. Can the Coronavirus Disease be Transmitted in Hot or Humid Climates?

Yes. The evidence so far is that the coronavirus disease can be transmitted in hot and humid climates, just as it can in cold climates, according to the World Health Organization.  


26. Can Cold Weather and Snow Prevent the Coronavirus Disease?

No. The WHO advises that cold weather and/or snow does not prevent the coronavirus disease. 


27. Is There Asymptomatic Transmission of the Coronavirus Disease?

This is an interesting question. Firstly, it should be noted that there is a difference between a pre-symptomatic person and an asymptomatic person. 

Someone who is pre-symptomatic can infect others during the virus’ incubation period, according to the WHO Situation Report from 2 April 2020, before going on to develop COVID-19 symptoms. 

However, the same report states that, as yet, “there has been no documented asymptomatic transmission” – that is, transmission of the virus from a person who does not subsequently develop symptoms. The WHO does go on to clarify that this, “does not exclude the possibility that it may occur.”

While many articles online talk about ‘asymptomatic’ transmission and ‘silent spreaders,’ it is likely that they really mean ‘pre-symptomatic’ transmission. 


28. What Nutrition Guidance Should I Follow During the Coronavirus Disease Outbreak?

While no food can protect you from catching the coronavirus disease, there are plenty that can boost your immune system. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine cites a range of studies on foods that can influence immune strength positively. 

Specifically, it recommends:

• Eating a low-fat diet

• Opting for plant-based foods

• Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables

The vitamins and minerals to focus on here are beta-carotene, vitamins C, D and E, and zinc. They come from:

• Beta-carotene: sweet potatoes, carrots and green, leafy vegetables

• Vitamin C: oranges, strawberries, mangoes, lemons, red peppers, broccoli and a wide range of other fruits and vegetables

• Vitamin D: fortified cereals and plant-based milks 

• Vitamin E: spinach, broccoli, nuts and seeds 

• Zinc: nuts, beans, lentils and pumpkin and sesame seeds


29. What is the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund?

The COVID-Solidarity Response Fund is a way for individuals and organisations to support the World Health Organization’s work in leading the global effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations are accepted from across the globe via a dedicated website. 

Donations fund activities that include:

• Tracking the spread of the virus

• Ensuring patients get the care that they need

• Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers

• Producing guidelines and advice based on the latest evidence

• Speeding up efforts to develop tests, treatments and vaccines 


If you have any questions about COVID-19 that we haven’t answered above, feel free to leave them in the comments section. We’ll aim to answer them next time we update this article. 

Stay safe! 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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