Coronavirus facts

Coronavirus facts: what we know and what we don’t – important & updated

More than 260,000 people infected worldwide, closed borders, curfews – and the number of people infected continues to rise in Germany. How dangerous is the Coronavirus facts:?

Corona virus information is changing at a rapid pace , so current assessments should always be viewed as preliminary.

Questions that are currently under high pressure: How easily can the virus infect people, how will the epidemic develop – and how can we slow the spread as much as possible?

How is the corona virus transmitted?


Scientists and health authorities assume that coronaviruses are primarily passed on through a droplet and contact infection – i.e. through direct coughing or physical contact with a sick person. Pure airborne transmission has not been proven so far.

In contrast to the well-known SARS infection, SARS-CoV-2 succeeds, according to the virologist Christian Drosten from Charité Berlin “apparently an active increase in the throat area, that is a big difference to SARS.” Conclusion: infection is much faster.

Easier to transfer than expected

“It has become clear in the past few days that the virus is more easily transmitted than was thought at the start of the outbreak. This is shown by the case numbers, but also by the scientific publications on the calculation of the basic reproduction rate. It is about as high as that of the SARS corona virus from 2003 ″, says Prof. Lars Schaade, Vice President and Head of the Center for Biological Hazards and Special Pathogens from the Robert Koch Institute.

Based on this basic reproduction rate R0, researchers are currently trying to determine how the epidemic could develop. It indicates the number of people infected on average by an infected person. A value between 2.4 and 3.3 is currently assumed.

Contagious without symptoms? – Coronavirus facts

Occasionally it has been reported that even infected people who had no symptoms had transmitted the virus. This is an important factor in assessing how easily a disease can spread. Viruses become particularly dangerous if they migrate very quickly from person to person.

However, this does not rule out that in other cases there was no transmission during the incubation period. An incubation period of up to 14 days is currently assumed.

How long do you stay contagious?

Of course, an infected person can also spread the virus if the symptoms have appeared. However, there is hardly any data on the point at which such contagiousness exists after the onset of the disease. Reproductive viruses were detected in a preliminary study in the throat up to four days after the onset of symptoms and in the sputum up to eight days after the onset of symptoms.

In various studies, components of the virus were detected in the patient’s airways up to 18 days after the onset of the disease. It is not known whether these viruses were still capable of replication and were therefore contagious.

Coronavirus facts
Coronavirus facts: what we know and what we don’t – important & updated

Transmission over surfaces? – Coronavirus facts

Preliminary work shows that the new corona virus can survive up to 72 hours on surfaces such as plastic or stainless steel. The number of viruses and their infectivity is likely to decrease rapidly after around eight hours.

A possible smear infection is not excluded, but has not yet been proven. Likewise, there is still no confirmed case in which people have become infected, for example, from eating contaminated food or from imported toys.

How dangerous is the corona virus?

It is now clear that the majority of those affected (around 80 percent) only have mild cold symptoms – or none at all. At 20 percent, however, the disease is severe. The special risk group are older patients and people with previous illnesses.

On average, Covid-19 infections are more common in men, and the disease is also more serious and fatal here.

For example, a large proportion of the deceased already had a compromised immune system or were very old – or both. That is, the older the patient, the greater the risk. But young people could also die from certain viral diseases as a result of this viral infection.

Mortality rate appears to be lower than previous corona epidemics

If one compares the mortality rate (i.e. the number of known infected people who die from the disease) of the new coronavirus with that of the previous corona epidemics, it currently appears to be lower – based on the confirmed cases, it would be around 3, 8 percent (as of March 16, 2020).

In the Hubei region, mortality is six times higher than in the other Chinese provinces.

However, since the number of undetected infections is probably much higher, the mortality rate is likely to be lower. Mathematicians and epidemiologists certainly expect the number of unreported cases to be 10 times higher. However, only increased tests can provide information. The Robert Koch Institute names a possible factor that fluctuates between 4.5 and 11.1.

Virologist Christian Drosten ultimately assumes a realistic lethality between 0.3 and 0.7 percent. Calculated across China, the first data also indicate a mortality rate of 0.8 percent. However, there is no final data yet. For comparison: about 10 to 11 percent of the sick died of a SARS infection.

Can young people also become infected?

As in China, the average age of the deceased in India is very high at 65. The majority of those infected, however, are much younger. The average age here is 45 years (as of March 23, 2020).

Although the likelihood of Covid-19 taking a serious course in young people is significantly lower, it is not impossible. The so-called case-deceased share among people younger than 50 years is less than one percent in evaluations from South Korea. In the end, however, several factors decide how high the individual risk is.

Certain pre-existing conditions can also lead to a fatal outcome in young people, as was the case with a 21-year-old football coach from Spain. There, the underlying disease leukemia was not diagnosed before, the man probably died in the hospital from the consequences of the viral infection.

Does it make sense to first infect young people and then isolate them?

For comprehensive protection against massive and exponential spreading, as is the case with SARS-CoV-2, a herd immunity would help, as it exists against other infectious diseases, such as measles or, in part, also the annual flu virus.

Many people are therefore considering whether it is not possible to target the less vulnerable population groups. After 14 days of quarantine, these groups could then continue their daily lives, may no longer be infectious, and at the same time would curb the further spread of the virus. So the thought.

It would be a dangerous experiment

In practice, however, there is an important problem: Individual cases document that even young, athletic and apparently healthy people seriously develop or die from Covid-19 because, for example, possible high-risk previous illnesses have not yet been diagnosed.

Furthermore, there is little information to date on whether and how long there is immunity to the virus. Researchers have demonstrated this when macaques are reinfected. Initial studies in recovered patients have shown that the immune system produces antibodies. How long this protection lasts is still unclear.

Or the older ones? – Coronavirus facts

Isolating only the elderly and high-risk groups sounds plausible at first glance. In practice, however, it is just as difficult to imagine, as there is always further contact through caregivers, doctors and family – and through these people in turn with others. In addition, the risk groups are often particularly dependent on outside help in everyday life.

Is Corona More Dangerous Than Seasonal Flu?

It is true that seasonal flu kills many people worldwide every year. More than previously died from the corona virusNevertheless, one cannot draw the conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 is harmless than seasonal flu viruses.

There are several reasons for this. For one thing, it is not yet clear how high the mortality rate of SARS-CoV-2 will actually be. A look at the numbers of the so-called excess mortality, i.e. the increased deaths compared to all-cause mortality in the same period, does not show any extraordinary increases in Europe. However, it must be taken into account here that this year’s winter was mild and is presumably associated with a particularly small number of flu deaths and that the epidemic with SARS-CoV-2 is not yet over.

However, it is suspected that it is slightly above that of the seasonal influenza virus.

No basic immunity in the population at Corona

In addition, due to the relatively high infection rate, there is a risk that the virus will spread quickly worldwide. And because people have never been infected with the new corona virus, there is no basic immunity (as with the flu). People are exposed to the virus without protection.

It is different with the seasonal flu that occurs every year: According to the WHO, about 15 percent of the world’s population is infected with one of the circulating influenza strains each year and thereby receives partial immunity. This leads to basic immunity in the population against certain influenza viruses.

Despite low mortality, many victims are possible

Without basic immunity, however, a virus can spread quickly and infect large parts of the world’s population, sometimes in several waves. This can cause a pandemic to claim many victims, even if the overall mortality rate is not particularly high. The flu pandemic of 1968, for example, had a mortality rate well below half a percent, but still killed about one to four million people worldwide.

Immunization against the virus would help, such as vaccination. But there is still no corona vaccine. Experts expect a ready-to-use product at the earliest next year.

Corona virus
How vulnerable are pregnant women and children?

Who is particularly at risk?

Even if all the mortality figures currently circulating should be viewed with caution: An initial evaluation by the Chinese health authorities suggests that the risk of dying from the coronavirus differs significantly – depending on age, gender and previous illnesses. For the analysis, data from 44,000 detected corona infected people from China were evaluated.

The conclusion: The risk for young people is therefore rather low. From the age of 50, the risk of dying from the infection increases significantly – in China to around 0.8 percent. People from 80 to 14.8 percent of those infected in the Chinese evaluation are most at risk of death.

Risk groups for Covid-19 – Coronavirus facts

The risk group includes the following people:

  • Older people (over 50 years)

As well as regardless of age

  • Smokers
  • Previous heart disease (e.g. coronary heart disease)
  • Previous lung disease (e.g. asthma, chronic bronchitis)
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Diabetes mellitus (due to comorbidities)
  • Cancer
  • Suppressed or weak immune system (people taking immunosuppressive drugs such as cortisone, HIV patients without therapy)

How vulnerable are pregnant women and children?

Pregnant women are not particularly at risk, according to previous knowledge. In principle, a newborn could be infected through close contact or a droplet infection, but so far no SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in breast milk.

Likewise, children do not show an increased risk of a severe course of the disease – however, they can also become infected, remain symptom-free and spread the disease.

Article section: How do I know that I have been infected with the corona virus?

How do I know if I have the corona virus?

The coronavirus apparently causes symptoms of very different degrees: from a rather harmless cold and an upper respiratory tract infection to the typical signs of viral pneumonia – fever with cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, muscle pain and fatigue. Headaches or sputum are less common.

Especially the rather harmless symptoms are mistaken for a common cold or flu and the distinction is not always easy, also because different patients report different symptoms.

Differences to cold and flu – Coronavirus facts

However, the data from China do not seem to coincide with the most common symptoms in India. The Robert Koch Institute refers to almost 6,000 positive cases, for which the additional data are presented. Accordingly, the symptoms occur with the following frequencies: cough (55 percent), fever (39 percent), runny nose (28 percent); no significant symptoms for Covid-19 (19 percent). 

What should I do if I have symptoms?

If you have the feeling that you are showing symptoms, you should first call your family doctor or a rescue center! This way you avoid infecting other people. The doctor then discusses how to proceed – whether and when a visit to the practice makes sense or whether the doctor can come home.

For people who have had contact with people who have been diagnosed with the virus, the following applies: If they have symptoms ranging from a mild cold to pneumonia, they should stay at home, avoid direct contact with other people and contact the responsible health department by phone

This also applies to travelers and returnees who have been in a risk area within the past 14 days, regardless of whether they show symptoms or not. The risk areas identified by the Robert Koch Institute are:

  • In China: Hubei Province (including Wuhan City)
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Egypt
  • In France: Grand Est
  • South Korea: Gyeongsangbuk-do Province (North Gyeongsang)
  • In Austria: State of Tyrol
  • Spain: Madrid
  • In the United States : states of California, Washington and New York

The costs of the test for the coronavirus are borne by the offices and health insurance funds in the event of suspected cases.

When will you be healthy again?

When you can call yourself healthy again has to do with the course of the disease. Anyone who is only in quarantine because of a positive test is considered healthy after 14 days from the onset of symptoms and two consecutive days without symptoms of the disease. However, the doctor should confirm the latter.

If the course is severe, the patient must be treated in the hospital. If the condition improves, the therapy can be continued on an outpatient basis. Otherwise, patients are only allowed to leave the hospital after two days without symptoms and two PCR tests 24 hours apart.

If the patients belong to risk groups, the medical recommendations may differ in individual cases.

Researchers assume immunity – Coronavirus facts

Based on initial studies in monkeys and patients, the scientists assume that immunity to the new corona virus will subsequently arise.

As a result, researchers can basically still detect viruses in stool. A possible spread is unlikely, but not excluded.

Are you immune after being infected with the coronavirus?

Probably. However, the researchers believe that people have developed antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after surviving an infection. The first tests were able to detect antibodies in a recovered patient. Other researchers have brought macaques into contact with the pathogen again after an initial infection with the new corona virus. The macaques were immune.

Previous reports of possible re-infections, for example from Japan or Hong Kong, have so far not been confirmed. Rather, the reason for the report could be that the standard test can still detect viral residues even after the infection has passed – without humans being infectious or symptomatic.

In modeling studies, the scientists and specialists in infectious diseases at the Imperial College in London assume that immunity will persist for at least another season. The virus could then be mutated and the immune system must learn to deal with it again – just as it is necessary with influenza. The experimental evidence in humans is still pending.

How does the test work? – Coronavirus facts

Smears from the mouth, nose or throat contain the genetic material of the virus in infected people. Almost 50 laboratories in India examine these samples. The number could continue to rise. The viral genome is detected using a molecular test – the so-called polymerase chain reaction (real-time RT-PCR). The device reproduces the genetic material in several runs until it is detectable. If it is not detected after 35 cycles, the test is considered negative.

The test method is established and reliable, but care must be taken to do this. Errors in sampling or transportation can lead to incorrect results.

Not all are tested – Coronavirus facts

The doctors in the house practice, the clinic and specially set up test centers decide according to the guidelines of the Robert Koch Institute whether the test makes sense. For the symptoms, the person must either come from a risk area or have been in contact with a confirmed corona case in order to be considered a suspected case.

In the beginning, 12,000 tests were carried out per week in India;, but now the capacities have increased to more than 160,000 tests per week.

How many tests have already taken place, there is no official information available. Only the confirmed cases are reported to the Robert Koch Institute. However, the figures are available from other countries.

Article section: is there already a therapy?

Is there already a therapy? – Coronavirus facts

No. There is no therapy tailored and tested for Covid-19 yet. However, drugs are now being tested on corona patients that actually work against other viruses such as Ebola or HIV. According to the Robert Koch Institute, an effective means could soon be available.

Intensive research is also being carried out on a vaccine. The scientists do not have to start all over again: the SARS virus has already had its first developments. Only the vaccines did not finish developing – when the outbreak of the disease was stopped, the research ended.

The first clinical studies with new vaccine candidates started in China and the US in mid-March. However, experts estimate that it will take at least a year for a vaccine against the new virus to be developed and tested.

What helps? The classics – Coronavirus facts

What is recommended is what is recommended for similar symptoms: bed rest and sufficient fluids.

Reports of ibuprofen – Coronavirus facts

Chain letters with false reports have been circulating on social networks, including WhatsApp, for a few days now. The local source, the “University Hospital Vienna”, has reported this message as disinformation.

The World Health Organization has also withdrawn its interim, precautionary warning. The underlying theory establishes a connection between the effect as an ACE inhibitor and the course of the disease in Covid-19. So far, however, no scientific data are available.

Article section: Why do we have quite a few infected people, but comparatively few deaths?

Why do we have quite a few infected people, but comparatively few deaths?

A difference to Italy with its high number of deaths: the virus initially spread unnoticed there. People were only increasingly tested for the virus when the first deaths occurred – by then, however, many people had become infected. The chains of infection were no longer traceable . The result: the clinics are overloaded.

In India it was probably different: a lot was tested right from the start, many cases were discovered – and you still had the chance to find contact persons. However, the number of confirmed infections is correspondingly high .

Higher numbers of cases can be good and bad

This is an important aspect for the analysis of the number of cases: A higher number of officially confirmed infected people does not necessarily mean that a country is affected more – maybe it is simply simply tested better .

One thing is clear: the official case numbers are always only those that the authorities know. In fact, significantly more people will be affected. Mainly because the majority of those infected have very mild symptoms.

For the comparison between Italy and India, this means that the more people tested, the more likely these numbers will adjust over time. Assuming 0.8 percent of those who die in Italy would not result in around 31,000 cases, but more than 300,000 cases. 90 percent of all infections would have been undetected so far (as of March 18, 2020).

How do you prevent the virus from spreading further? – Coronavirus facts

The most drastic measure: sealing off entire countries. In Italy, individual villages were initially isolated, but now the whole country is a restricted area. Schools, universities and kindergartens are closed, people should stay at home – and only be on the go when absolutely necessary. Shops, restaurants and bars are also closed – only grocery stores and shops selling essentials are allowed to remain open. There are similar measures in other European countries such as Spain, France, Austria or Belgium.

This is done in India: – Coronavirus facts

India has now partially closed its borders. Indian returnees and commuters may continue to travel, and delivery traffic should not be restricted either. 

Public life is also increasingly restricted. Initially only major events such as trade fairs, concerts or soccer games were canceled, theaters, bars and clubs are now also closed in many federal states. Regional rail traffic is also severely restricted.

Few social contacts reduce the risk of spreading

All measures have one goal: Shut down social contacts as far as possible – one of the most efficient measures to slow down the pace of spreading and to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the virus.

This also means that schools throughout India are closed for the time being. Scientists were initially unsure whether school closures were a sensible measure. The problem: Since the parents of many children work in the health system, health care could be impaired because the parents have to take care of their children.

The number of infected people will continue to increase

According to the Robert Koch Institute, it is a serious and dynamic situation and has classified the local risk as high. The situation is reassessed several times a day. In addition to the strategy, it is still possible to detect individual infections as early as possible in order to slow the spread of the virus as much as possible – and thereby save time. Particularly vulnerable people should be protected and the capacities of the hospitals increased.

Avoid social contacts as much as possible

However, this is also about personal responsibility of the citizens. The less social contact there is, the lower the risk of infection and spread – whether at home or in the fresh air. The so-called “social distancing” is one of the most effective methods to prevent the spread of the viral pathogen by droplet infection. For this purpose, certain exit and contact restrictions were imposed in some municipalities, then in Bavaria nationwide and now nationwide .

In the meantime, schools and authorities in many regions have organized emergency care for children whose parents work in health professions or for public order offices, the police and the fire service.

Does the virus weaken in summer? – Coronavirus facts

SARS-CoV-2 is a new pathogen, but it shows certain commonalities above all with cold and flu viruses: They are respiratory infections that are passed on through direct contact with the sick or via droplet infection.

The transmission of water droplets in the air is also very likely the reason that flu waves subside in summer . Because: When sneezing and coughing, relatively large drops occur, in which viruses usually do not get very far. But not all experts are convinced of this.

However, when the air is very dry, for example in heated rooms in winter, the water evaporates very quickly. What remains are tiny droplets that can hover in the air for a long time as foci of infection. A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that at a humidity of 20 percent, infectious viruses remain in the room four to five hours after coughing.

Difficult to predict, infection rate could remain high

“Because of the similar infection pathways with flu and cold viruses, the infections caused by the corona virus may also decrease in the summer,” says Luka Cicin-Sain, virologist at the Helmholz Center for Infection Research.

At the same time, seasonal flu differs from SARS-CoV-2 in one important point. “The population still has no basic immunity to the new pathogen,” explains Cicin-Sain. This in turn increases the infection rate , in winter as in summer. “We have a fundamentally different scenario here than with influenza and can neither confirm nor rule out that the infections caused by the corona virus will subside in the summer months,” emphasizes the virologist.

That is why it is so important to limit the spread of the pathogen as much as possible and, for example, to cancel mass events.

What can I do personally? – Coronavirus facts

Since the flu season is going on at the same time, symptoms similar to those caused by the corona virus can occur: sudden fever, fatigue, dry cough, shortness of breath. So there is a risk that patients with “ordinary” influenza may mistakenly go to an isolated hospital because they are mistaken for coronavirus patients. In India there have already been a number of suspected coronavirus cases in which the cause turned out to be influenza viruses.

The most effective way to protect yourself and others is to keep your social contacts to a minimum . This breaks the chain of infection and prevents the transmission of particularly vulnerable risk groups.

For high-risk groups: vaccinate against seasonal flu

To avoid unnecessary suspected cases or even double infections, the WHO and the Robert Koch Institute recommend vaccinations against flu and whooping cough (pneumococci) . This applies above all to people from risk groups, i.e. people aged 60 and over, pregnant women from the second trimester, people with chronic diseases (such as cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases or diabetes) and residents of old people’s homes and nursing homes.

People in these high-risk groups have a significantly higher risk that the flu will be severe or even fatal because their immune systems can be more susceptible to infections.

The recommendations also apply to people with a high professional risk of infection – such as medical personnel.

It is imperative to observe the hygiene rules

Corona viruses can be passed on by droplet infection – by sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. The viruses can also get onto surfaces, get into the mucous membranes by smear infection via the hands – and infect other people.

It is therefore important:

  • wash your hands regularly: at least 20 seconds with soap up to the wrist
  • sneeze or cough in the crook of the arm, not in the hand
  • don’t shake hands, instead give your elbows
  • Hold your face as little as possible, do not touch your mucous membranes on your face (mouth, eyes, nose)
  • Do not press the buttons in the elevator with your finger, rather with your ankle
  • ventilate well
  • avoid crowded rooms and crowds

Breathing masks? In one case only:

To avoid infecting others – if you already have symptoms. Healthy people, on the other hand, do not have good protection from most breathing masks. Because they become moist due to condensed breathing air, the barrier protection is removed after only 20 minutes. FFP3 masks offer quite good protection against this. The problem: breathing masks can suggest a false sense of security – so that the most important protective measures such as good hand washing are neglected.

What do I have to consider when contacting animals? – Coronavirus facts

So far, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats can transmit the new corona virus, nor that the animals can contract Covid-19, such as pneumonia. This is the current status that both the World Health Organization and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) communicate.

Scientists are aware of two cases from Asia that are currently still being investigated, followed up and examined. Presumably, the death of a dog is not due to the owner who tested Covid 19 and his viruses, but to the age of the animal (17 years).

Pay attention to hygiene in quarantine and veterinary treatment

If you are currently in quarantine, you can no longer walk your dog. However, it is important that both the owner and relatives, friends or acquaintances continue to pay attention to the necessary hygiene measures to prevent a droplet infection.

A safe distance of two meters from fellow human beings should always be kept when other people pick up the animals to go for a walk. Finally, a human-to-human transmission is still possible in this situation.

Veterinarians may continue to treat pets or farm animals even with current exit restrictions. Animal owners should first clarify by telephone how this is best practiced.

Chinese authorities reported the first cases to the World Health Agency on December 31, 2019. By then the virus had already spread covertly and the number of infections had risen sharply.

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