Information about the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19)




What can we do during the current epidemic? How can we avoid getting infected?

  1. Buy drinking water, canned and deep-frozen products as well as non-perishable food for at least 90-120 days.
  2. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Make sure you do not do it only in the usual cases: when returning home, before meals, after using the toilet, etc.! It is advisable to wash hands on a regular basis before using the toilet, before / after visiting public spaces, but also to do it periodically (every half an hour), without connecting it to certain activities.

    Attention: Water taps are not available everywhere and you will probably not find one on subways, trams, in stops or stations, either. It`s good to carry some spray on you. Spray the liquid regularly on your hands, rub them, wipe them with a paper towel, and then throw it away by all means! Frequent hand washing dries the skin, so do not forget to hydrate the regularly cleansed skin surface.
  3. Avoid contact with eyes, nose and mouth if your hands are not clean! Wear in public spaces special glasses that protect your eyes against the particles filtered in the air.
  4. It is absolutely necessary to respect the usual etiquette of sneezing - sneeze or cough in a handkerchief. Avoid the crowds and physical contact with other people: this is not the appropriate time to shake hands or give a kiss!
  5. In the event of an outbreak and even before, it is safe to use a special, multilayered air filter face mask! Of course, if you can still purchase one somewhere!
  6. Disinfect frequently the surfaces with which a large number of people come in contact. (For example, the desk where you receive clients at your workplace or the plexiglass wall at the cashier’s desk.) Obtain disinfectant products as soon as possible, because soon there might be a shortage of these products, too.
  7. In the event of an outbreak and even before don’t attend public events and avoid public transport if possible. We cannot know who the infected people are, as long as they are not aware about being infected, either.
  8. Avoid sick people’s company!
  9. Stay at home, if you notice the slightest signs of the disease, respect your fellows!
  10. If you have a fever, cough or breathing difficulties, contact your doctor immediately and keep to the protocol made public the respective area.
  11. Avoid raw food or consumption of animal organs as well as the markets where there are living animals! Avoid animal excrements, pay close attention to your dog and to what it brings into your home or into your immediate environment! Check the cleanness of your shoes when stepping into your home!
  12. Avoid the countries in which the serious spread of the virus has been reported and also the people who have been travelling abroad, recently!

How dangerous is the COVID-19 epidemic?

The basic characteristics of the epidemic are indicative of some serious potential threat. One of the problems is its long latency period. The virus attacks vital organs (primarily the lungs) which may cause potentially lethal diseases. Anybody can carry around the virus during an extremely long – up to over two weeks – incubation period without even noticing it or ever experiencing any symptoms. Some carry the virus, and pass it on, without falling ill or producing symptoms so mild that they do not think much of it or never suspect the corona virus.

The assertion that the mortality statistics are similar to those of influenza is simply not true. The infection rate of COVID-19 appears to be way over two, which is twice as high as that of flu. Infection rate is a key metric: it shows the number of individuals to whom one infected person passes on the virus in a non-immune community without any special actions or prevention measures in place. Mortality rate for the COVID-19, on the other hand, is 25 times that of influenza: while the latter kills 1 in every 1000 infected, COVID-19 causes the death of 25 of every 1000 infected.


Which one should we be more afraid, flu or the coronavirus?

From an epidemiological aspect coronavirus is a major challenge for health professionals. Precautions taken so far could merely slow down the spreading of the virus, and still, to date, it has affected more people than many other epidemics of the recent decades. About 20% of those infected with the virus need serious medical assistance, some even require life-saving intervention. In other words, the relatively high – 3-6% – mortality rate would even be higher without the concerted efforts being made to keep it down. This situation can only be maintained as long as the given country’s health care sector has capacities to deal with it. And the health sector has been barely coping in most countries even without the new epidemic.

This is why we all have to use our best efforts to avoid contributing to the spreading of the disease: everyone should wash their hands regularly, those who have already contracted it should wear face masks, avoid crowded places and stay at home, as much as possible.


It is widely held that only elderly and/or weaker people are really endangered. Is this true?

It is always individuals whose immune systems have grown weaker or not fully developed yet, along with those down with diseases or otherwise in difficult condition, that are most exposed. But this is mere statistics, which indicate how severe effects different groups of populations can expect. Nobody is safe; some may, at best, face lower chances of getting into trouble. Plotted in a matrix of mortality/serious disease and age, epidemics tend to produce U-shaped curves, indicting the young and the old are in more danger; however, this is more of a generalisation, and actual data depict a much more varied landscape. There have been cases in history where hyper-active immune systems caused millions of deaths, where the above-mentioned graph had a W-shape, meaning he population groups with immune systems considered to be the strongest of all suffered the greatest losses. Consequently, a joint focus on prevention is what should best serve the interests of the entire population.


WHY SHALL WE STRIVE FOR PREVENTION, IF WE CANNOT STOP THE SPREAD OF THE EPIDEMIC? WOULDN’T IT BE BETTER TO GET OVER IT QUICKLY?

The “getting quickly over it” scenario would be the most dangerous of all ones possible. It is vital that we gain some time, for two reasons. On the one hand, in numerous research centres worldwide great efforts are being made in the research of viral infections and the development of medical treatment and vaccines - we learn more about the disease day by day. This means that the later we get ill, the smaller the chance is that recovery will depend solely on the strength of our immune system, and we’ll be cured with a more complex knowledge of the illness.

On the other hand, the slower the infection spreads among the population, the fewer patients have to undergo hospital treatment at the same time. Remember: current figures indicate that 200 000 out of 1 000 000 infected people will develop such a serious condition that they will be forced into bed with high fever and 40-50 000 people out of these 200 000 will need hospital treatment. These numbers already represent a real challenge to the health care system, and we have only taken into account a low infection level.

The present mortality rate caused by the coronavirus will be maintained only until the number of infected people does not surpass the healing capacity of hospitals. If the health care system gets overloaded, they won’t be able to treat effectively either the victims of the coronavirus or the patients cured properly before. This means the number of deaths would increase dramatically. Soon patients suffering from more common diseases like appendicitis for example would also die, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t happen. Furthermore, this tragical scenario would lead to serious economic crisis and the complete collapse of various supply systems (e.g. food supply or public security). It is true that the current epidemic restrictions have a detrimental impact on economy, but individual and material damage cannot be compared with the economic and social collapse the quick and uncontrolled spread of the epidemic would cause.

If on the contrary, we “get over the epidemic more slowly”, far fewer people will die as the health care system will be able to ensure the necessary treatment capacity in hospitals. True: if infection spreads at a slow pace, our society will register fewer losses, and fewer families will be afflicted by death even if the number of persons infected were identical with the number of those infected during the quick spread of the virus. On top of this, the example of some countries, in which the epidemic restrictions were taken in due time and were respected with perseverance, reflects that the spread of the coronavirus can be slowed down, indeed. This depends on authorities and on the synchronized behaviour of the population, alike. We can save many lives by following the prevention rules!


HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL DEVELOP A SERIOUS CONDITION ACCORDING TO STATISTICS?

About 20 out of 100 infected persons will get seriously ill. By “getting seriously ill” we mean that they’ll have to stay in bed with high fever and weakness without being able to provide for themselves etc., and they’ll depend on their beloved ones. Statistics show that about 4 out of 20 people will need hospital professional treatment (perfusion, breathing support or respiratory therapy). These 4 persons will be in real danger. Their lives will depend on access to hospital treatment.


I AM YOUNG AND HEALTHY, WHAT SHALL I FEAR?

As statistics show that the younger generation is less endangered by the epidemic, some of them are not willing to keep to the slightly uncomfortable prevention rules, believing they won’t get into trouble. For example, they won’t cancel Saturday night parties or their vacations abroad.

Going on holiday is great- but is it worth risking other people’s lives? Remember: being asymptomatic is not the equivalent of being healthy. The moment you board an international plane you can infect people from many countries at a time. Let’s not take our pathogens around the world! To put it more seriously, let’s not kill unknown people from remote countries! This also applies to our own homes- washing hands, reducing social contacts, sneezing in a handkerchief, etc., might save the lives of those around us. There is a popular saying circulating nowadays: our great-grandfathers had to fight in the war, all we have to do is lie on the sofa for a few weeks. We can handle it, can’t we?

What`s more, it is not cast in stone that younger people will not develop serious diseases. Yes, there are victims among younger people, and it`s not too pleasant to get connected to a mechanical ventilator, either. Being younger of age is not a guarantee that nothing will go wrong, it only increases the chances of having milder symptoms.


HOW DOES THE VIRUS SPREAD?

It is transmitted from one person to another through droplet infection as well as through physical contact and direct contact with different surfaces. That is to say that not only coughs and sneezes can spread the virus, but all types of physical contact as well! And droplet infection implies that the virus will leave the infected person`s body not only when sneezing or coughing, but also when exhaling and speaking.


HOW LONG IS THE INCUBATION PERIOD OF THE INFECTION?

The incubation period can exceed 2 weeks and sometimes can be as long as 30 days. Current statistics show that the virus is infectious even during the incubation period.


HOW LONG ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE RECOVERED FROM THE CORONAVIRUS CONTAGIOUS?

After recovering from illness and becoming asymptomatic, the affected person should be considered a virus carrier for 2 more weeks. It should be noted that clothes and objects represent a source of infection even if the person is no longer contagious, so thorough disinfection of the immediate environment (washing at high temperature, cleaning with disinfectants) is required.


HOW SHALL WE TAKE CARE OF ELDERLY FAMILY MEMEBERS?

Many people are less afraid of getting ill and having serious symptoms and are rather more afraid of transmitting the infection to an elderly family member who is suffering from multiple diseases. This fear is well-founded - but if we live in a responsible way, we can minimize risks. By keeping to prevention rules (washing hands, avoiding other people, etc.) we’ll protect our own health as well as that of the persons we live in the same household with. Our grandparents’ or parents’ health depend on us. Let this motivate us to be even more careful!

It is not true that keeping a distance of 1-2 meters is enough to avoid infecting each other, this distance is far from sufficient. In addition, any surface we touch can transmit the virus if we are infected. Therefore, in this period, a responsible decision would be to keep in touch with our elderly loved ones rather via the Internet and phone and refrain from visiting them. Let’s provide them with the devices they need and teach them how to use them.

Older people who can’t help going out may also need to be thoroughly informed about hygiene rules because they don’t always take them seriously. In the meantime, we should try to calm them down and reassure them that they are important to us, which is the very reason we wish to protect them. Don’t “ban” them from moving, do exercises together in the flat, if you live together, or if circumstances are favourable, go for a walk with them. Undertake the activities that would imply getting in contact with a lot of people (going to the post office, shopping, pharmacy) and try to do them online yourselves!


WHY IS THE CORONAVIRUS PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS FOR THE ELDERLY?

Statistics conducted in recent months show that Covid-19 is extremely dangerous for elderly people, especially for those who suffer from cardiopulmonary and immunological problems. But age is not the decisive factor, the virus rather worsens the actual chronic diseases. Older age groups tend to suffer from more chronic illnesses, so statistically they are the most vulnerable, although young people with health problems can also be at risk.

Why? Chronic diseases, e.g. high blood pressure or diabetes can damage organs and make them more susceptible to infections. In addition, the coronavirus infection damages the lungs, which can be particularly dangerous for people suffering from cardiovascular diseases. If the lungs do not get enough oxygen, the heart must beat more intensively. Biological age also plays an important role in our response to infections. As we get older, our organs function worsens, our cells become increasingly damaged, and our body`s systems used to fight diseases deteriorate. For example, the number of white blood cells, which play a key role in fighting infections, might decrease, while the existing ones may not work as effectively as before.

Another important fact is that elderly people’s physical strength and reserves are extremely reduced/diminished. The disease caused by the coronavirus infection is characterized by a very sudden change in the condition of the patients, which means that a stable condition characterised by weakness and moderate fever might develop within a few hours into breathing difficulties with the lack of oxygen deteriorating the other organs. In such situations staying strong will be of great importance - do we have the necessary physical strength to go to the hospital? Can we make the right decisions while feeling confused due to the lack of oxygen? Can we make decisions? In older people, a sudden decline in their health condition might lead to a radical, rapid collapse of the body and they might be able to handle the situation well.

For this reason, it is very important that we take great care of the elderly people around us! If we ourselves are older, let’s take the rules seriously without underestimating the danger. If we avoid the possibility of infection, we are safe. In addition, let’s get prepared for all possible scenarios and make an action plan in case one of our family members gets ill.


CAN KIDS GO TO KINDERGARTEN, SCHOOL OR TRAINING SESSIONS?

To put it in a nutshell: no one should go anywhere. Children cannot be taught the rules of prevention perfectly, they aren’t aware enough to always follow them. We cannot prepare them for all infectious situations. Our imagination is not colourful enough, either to foresee all the possibilities, and children are more emotion-driven, which makes it more difficult to get full control over their behaviour. Therefore, it would be advisable that we keep an eye on our children. Let’s not let them go among people!

Children, according to statistics, are not at risk of developing a more severe form of the disease. The problem is that they catch the virus from other children and then infect family members or other people from their environment without even being able to notice the symptoms. No wonder that most countries have decided to close kindergartens and schools as they can become a focal point. But be aware: closed schools in the neighbourhood do not indicate the fact that holidays have come and that you can go to the zoo or anywhere else - on the contrary, the goal is to keep everyone at home. Going on "vacation" and organizing community programs will only help the virus spread!

Children should not spend much time together with elderly, sick family members to avoid contaminating them as asymptomatic carriers.


WHAT INFORMATION SHALL WE SHARE WITH OUR CHILDREN IN CONNECTION WITH THE EPIDEMIC?

Kids are going through a lot of changes these days, so be sure to explain the reasons to them. They also perceive this emergency - let`s not try to deny it but emphasize that the danger can be managed. Place emphasis on control and on the sense of security. Do not overwhelm children with information or data, as this will increase their sense of danger, let’s be brief and concise. There should be no taboo topics, but the most important thing is that our children feel safe.

The family`s transition to a new lifestyle will not happen overnight, and that`s fine. It takes time to create a new agenda and to make a routine out of every new action. Practice wearing protective equipment (masks, sunglasses). The masks need to be slightly modified to fit the kids, and then they’ll have to get used to the breathing difficulties caused by the mask. But once they get used to it, it won`t bother them anymore. It might be scary at first, so they should start practicing in time.

Let`s also discuss with our kids why we`re not going to visit their grandparents for a while. We can compensate the lack of visits by contacting them on the phone and via the Internet. If the circumstances are appropriate, e.g. if we live in a house with garden, let’s allow the kids to go out for some fresh air every day.

Staying at home or quarantining can be a positive experience (under the given circumstances). Children usually lack quality time spent with their parents, so we can make up for it now.


HOW EASILY WILL I CATCH THE VIRUS IF I AM TRAVELLING NEXT TO AN INFECTED PERSON, FOR EXAMPLE?

Currently, all we know is that one infected person transmits the virus to 4-5 other people. We don’t know when and where this happens, since statistics are always made public subsequently to being conducted. We also need to add that as we move forward in time, that is, as we become increasingly aware of the characteristics of the virus and the infection, the information becomes more and more discouraging, and the epidemic seems more dangerous than we have expected.

Therefore, instead of speculating on the possibilities, keep to this: it is strictly forbidden to visit public places, choose voluntary separation!


HOW SHALL I GO OUT OF THE BLOCK OF FLATS WITHOUT INFECTING OTHERS OR CATCHING THE VIRUS?

The staircase of a block of flats is not a safe place, as the virus might be present on the railing, on the walls, on the ground and in the air if there is an infected person in the house or if one of the owners has come in contact with an infected person/object and transmitted it. But with community collaboration and individual precaution, we can reduce the hazard.

The elevator inside the building should only be used by people who cannot walk upstairs. The narrow and generally difficult- to-air elevators, can be considered a source of infection due to the prolonged presence of saliva droplets and viruses on the buttons and walls.

Clean, disinfect and air the staircase as often as possible (using mittens to open and close the windows). Every person who enters the staircase should wear a scarf or a mask, even if they feel healthy. (If you are sick, don’t go to public places). Touch as few things as possible. However, if it is compulsory to touch something (e.g. door handle, door opener), grab it with a paper towel then throw it immediately into a bin.

It is worth practicing all this in due time, when the number of people infected is not too high, so that by the time the epidemic peaks we can do it if was part of our daily routine.


I KEEP TO THE EPIDEMIC RULES BUT OTHERS DON’T-WHAT SHALL I DO?

Unfortunately, some of our fellow human beings are not behaving in a mature way in the current situation (either), we have to admit it. It is a great pity, because if every person in the world voluntarily quarantined for about 2 months, the epidemic would probably be over – such is the importance of discipline. But unfortunately, as long as no drastic austerity measures are taken, some people will not follow the rules of prevention, contributing even more to the spread of the epidemic.

Let’s therefore reverse the situation in our minds! Let`s pretend that a part of the universe that is beyond our reach, which can be found outside of us and our homes, gets quarantined. Let’s suppose the infected and the potentially infected persons live there. Consequently, we won’t go there. Leaving your own private zone is like getting into a cage full of wild beasts. But while we see the wildlife in the cage, the current threat is invisible – it feels as if we had to move with our eyes tied among the beasts.

Therefore, if we still need to go out, we should take serious precautions. Regardless of others’ irresponsible behaviour, we can take care of ourselves and our loved ones - in fact, we need to be even more careful.

Take the opportunity to inform others whenever we have the chance to: If we see that someone doesn’t understand the importance of prevention or what to do in this respect, tell them. Regarding people from our immediate environment (family, friends, colleagues), we must make sure with determination and perseverance that they keep to the rules - our common life depends on it.


What can one do to boost their immune system?

The human immune system can do wonders when functioning properly, particularly when faced with a pathogen that is not entirely unknown to it. A minor illness, severe sleep deprivation, malnutrition or permanent stress, however, is sufficient to undermine its effectiveness. This is why ‘immune awareness’, the mindful supporting of the defence mechanisms of your body, is vital during an epidemic – and, really, any other time. One should try and avoid anything that is bound to weaken their body.

This is no time for things like endurance hiking, juice fasting or radical diets aimed at losing weight. Try not to move house at times like this, or undertake any other kind of major changes which may cause major stress. Have at least 7 hours of sleep each day, and do not mind putting on some weight. Some reserve may come handy, particularly during a longer illness. In short, do not deplete your reserves; strive for a balanced, relaxed and ‘recharged’ state and condition. Winter is a period of withdrawal and slowing down for all living creatures – and so we all should take a little rest.


Do green surgical masks protect us?

The main role of surgical masks is to protect against the fast spread of the virus: if someone is infected but wears the mask, they are less likely to pass on the virus to others. And since one of the characteristics of the current SARS-CoV-2 epidemic is that there is high number of asymptomatic infected persons, the ideal thing would be that all of us wear masks when coming in contact with other people. We don’t know if we carry the virus ourselves or not, if we have no symptoms. And all those who have respiratory symptoms, such as rhinitis, should definitely cover their mouth with a mask if they enter in contact with other people- surgical masks serve this purpose perfectly.

If all of us were wearing medical masks for a few weeks and followed the other hygiene rules (such as hand washing) be it in the current situation or during other epidemics (e.g. during the flu season), the spread of the epidemic would slow down significantly and a lot more people would stay healthy!

But surgical masks can also, protect their wearers to some degree from being infected. Because coronavirus infects best through the larger droplets of saliva that fly out of our mouths while coughing, sneezing, and laughing - the virus "travels" on them, very effectively, indeed: these drops can come out of our mouths at a speed of up to 50 m / s and can get as far as 6 meters! That means, it is in vain that we keep the recommended distance of 1-2 meters ... However, there is evidence that surgical masks are able to capture the big droplets that pose the greatest risk stopping them from getting into the air.

Medical masks are also very useful when treating a patient, e.g. a family member. If you don’t want the entire family to get infected, it is worth giving the ill person a surgical mask. This type of mask doesn’t impede normal breathing and is comfortable to wear.

The video below shows you how to use masks properly. The keywords are: wash your hands before watching the recording; don’t touch the mask while you are wearing it; wash your hands before and after you take it off. While wearing the mask and after taking it off behave as if the outside of your mask were contaminated, that is, don’t touch it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OABvzu9e-hw

Disposable surgical masks are disposable in every sense of the word and protect until they are noticeably wet. In this case, they must be replaced immediately, and the used masks thrown away.

Remember: no matter what masks we are wearing, they will only be effective if we continue to pay attention to frequent hand washing, if we avoid touching our face, and keep the distance recommended.


What type of masks offer effective protection from contracting the virus?

Primarily half face masks we can all see workers wear for example – beyond the mouth these masks also cover the nose and seal around the side of the face, preventing airflow. These are disposable maintenance-free particle filtering half-face masks, called filtering face pieces or FFP. They come in three protection grades:

  • FFP1: FFP1 grade masks offer protection against non-toxic dust and fluid particles (oil and water based mist) that are no-toxic but irritate the mucous membranes (e.g. during drilling, sanding and cutting). This type of mask filters out particles larger than 5 microns.
  • FFP2: FFP2 grade masks offer protection against fine dust and fluid particles (oil and water based mist) moderately dangerous to health (e.g. working with mortar and cement, and during woodworking). This type of mask filters out particles larger than 1 micron.
  • FFP3: FFP3 grade masks offer protection against toxic solid and fluid particles (e.g. during pharmaceutical and chemical operations). This type of mask is capable of filtering out particles smaller than 1 micron.

The diameter of the 2019 coronavirus is 50-200 nanometres. However, it is not the virus itself but the vehicle carrying it, that a mask should catch – in most cases it is drops of saliva travelling or floating in the air – these are considerably larger than the virus itself.

While the permeability of FFP2 masks provide considerable (92-94%) protection against the coronavirus, it is FFP3 masks that come closest to providing 100% protection.


How to wear an FFP face mask properly?

Most face masks that are available in the market are disposable – those are white in colour. They provide the highest degree of protection as long as they are worn continuously. They should not be taken off or reached underneath with the fingers until they are to be discarded. Accordingly, those who wish to protect themselves against the infection during a two-hour flight and at the airport for example, should not remove, nor reach under, the mask during the entire journey.

Put the mask on right after removing it from its packaging. Make sure that the mask perfectly fits your face – there should be no gaps between your skin and the mask. (Only FFP masks and similar reusable products are suitable for this – the medical face masks are not.) Beard or other forms of facial hair prevents the mask from conforming to the skin all along the edge, so facial hair should be removed if you want to maximise the effectiveness of your face mask.

If the mask needs to be taken off (e.g. for eating) and there is no new one at hand, it should be placed in an effectively ventilated place where there are no other people. And do not forget to wash your hands thoroughly before doing so. Do not touch the mask on the inside, and store it in a sterile bag when not in use. And keep in mind: FFP masks are designed for single use. Once taken off, these masks lose a considerable amount of their protective capabilities: when they are not worn the virus can land on the inside of the mask as well as on your face.

Masks can be worn continuously for many hours on end. But after use, they must be disposed of. Hours of breathing and talking gradually saturates the mask with moisture. And a wet face mask will not protect you from viruses – if anything, it increases the risk of infection. As soon as your mask feels wet waste no time, replace it with a new, dry one. Since the coronavirus – and the flu – can also enter your body through the eyes, you should never touch your eyes with hands unwashed. Not even when you are wearing a mask.

Do not be surprised to find that a mask (particularly an FFP3 level one) will not let the air through as freely as when you normally, freely breathe – but of course you will be able to breathe in enough air even with a mask on. Breathe calmly and evenly, you will get used to it quickly enough. If you do physically demanding work while wearing a mask you may find it harder than usual, as harder work requires more oxygen. If you feel dizzy, ease up a bit and move to a more ventilated area.


Do masks offer 100% protection?

No. Not even a mask that filters out 100% of all viruses in the air you breathe in will provide you with absolute protection. This is because your mouth and nose are not the only openings of your body viruses can enter through – there are your eyes for example; also, this virus can survive for a while on your clothes and things you touch. Complete protection is only possible by also wearing protective goggles and hooded protective apparel. Such protection should be used by health professionals or others more exposed to hazard, or when you are taking care of an infected family member at home and direct contact is unavoidable. But anyone can wear a mask in normal circumstances, should the situation be such that it is necessary.

But everyone should keep in mind that proper and thorough personal hygiene is paramount, even if you wear a mask! Wash your hands regularly, use a tissue when coughing or sneezing, avoid kissing people, keep your distance from others, disinfect surfaces etc.


WHAT DOES THE DATE PRINTED ON MY MASK REFER TO?

It refers to the date the mask was made. It is the manufacturing date.


Is it true that a runny nose and coughing up phlegm are signs that you don’t have the coronavirus, as COVID-19 will cause dry cough?

Sadly, it isn’t. This widespread misconception is dangerous, not only because it is simply not true but also because it tempts one to self-diagnose. Identifying the causes of respiratory symptoms takes laboratory tests. You cannot go “by the looks of it”. If you live in or have visited a place where the epidemic is present, and observe the symptoms on yourself, go and see a doctor.


What symptoms should warrant a consultation with the doctor?

The most common clinical symptoms of the coronavirus infection include high fever, dry cough, chest pain, muscle pain, respiratory distress, a shortness of breath and fatigue. The symptoms may appear mild during the initial phase – indeed, most of the people who have contracted the disease experience not more than a modestly unpleasant condition with upper respiratory symptoms. However, many – up to 15–20% – of those affected will develop pneumonia while 5–10% will show critical symptoms (severe pneumonia with acute respiratory distress syndrome), and will require life-saving interventions.

This is why it is crucial that anyone observing the above symptoms (even in a mild form), and has the slightest chance of having contracted the coronavirus (having visited an infected area, having been in contact with anyone coming from such an area etc.) should consult their doctor – by phone. Do not pass the disease on to others! The first thing to do is calling your family doctor by phone.


What to do when you suspect that you or anyone around you have contracted the virus?

In case you observe any of the typical symptoms of the infection (respiratory symptoms, fever, muscle pain) on yourself or anyone around you, make sure to stay at home. Do not visit the family doctor or a hospital with a suspected coronavirus infection! Instead, call the doctor or, if your or others’ condition is more serious, the ambulance. Make sure to let them know you suspect it is a case of coronavirus, explain why you think so (such as having returned from an area where the disease is present or have been in contact with someone who has come from such a place).


When will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus?

It takes 12 to 18 months, or possibly even a lot longer, to develop a vaccine, and even more time to manufacture hundreds of millions of units the world needs. Distributing the vaccine and then the development of the immune response will also take time. In short, the solution at this point lies not in vaccination but the production of quick tests and stopping the virus from spreading. Moreover, viruses tend to mutate (the coronavirus already comes in mutations some of which cause even more severe symptoms than the “original” ones), so even a vaccine, when it’s ready for use, may not provide full protection. This is why it is of utmost importance that everyone focuses on preventing a full-blown epidemic, curbing its spreading and encouraging others to approach the situation with the same mindset.


Will the coming warmer period help slowing down the coronavirus epidemic?

Optimists hope so, expecting it to only be a seasonal epidemic, somewhat like your average flu. A look at the areas swept by the virus shows that tropical areas have remained relatively unaffected so far. The truth is that this type of coronavirus such a new thing that we are quite in the dark about how it behaves in warmer weather, so, at the present there is no definitive answer to this question. With rising temperatures the virus may lose some of its vitality and become less contagious – but then again, it may also turn out to be nothing but a false hope.


Should the virus spread all over the world, is it possible that we will have to face a COVID-19 epidemic each year from now on?

A next epidemic may come about in a wide variety of ways, even from the original carrier, with a new chain of infections and/or with the appearance of mutants. A reliable long term solution would be an adequate rate of vaccination against the virus version already known and then the introduction and application of strict, well designed and executed epidemic prevention protocols.


How stable is this virus? How successfully will it mutate and what is the likelihood of a mutant much more dangerous than this one appearing?

This type of coronavirus appears to be a new, hitherto unknown one. Its genome is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA, and as such, it is highly susceptible to mutation. We already know of a variety of mutants producing more severe symptoms. With a little luck, however, a friendlier version may also crop up and some variants may even die off after a while, as a result of the application of suitable protocols.


There are various theories about how the virus appeared and started to spread in the first place. Which is the most plausible one?

People are increasingly likely to meet/contact organisms unknown and just a few decades ago – humans simply did not meet them, and thus did not carry them all over the globe. Viruses (like a lot of other things) are carried and spread in relatively closed environments – or niches –, determined by natural processes. And it is these systems that we break up again and again, in some cases purposely, without any self-constraint, in other cases purely out of negligence.

Sources show that in the case of this coronavirus either an animal called pangolin or some snake was the original host organism, and perhaps bats conveyed the virus as a carrier in between those and humans. Research will probably provide us with more and more accurate answers over time. What makes things more complicated is that the COVID-19 is an ssRNA-based creature that readily mutates, so we may be facing multiple mutants by now.


Should we plan on a summer holiday in Italy or any other area hit by the epidemic?

No trips should be scheduled for the coming 4-6 months, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Everyone should stay at home instead.


Can products coming from infected regions be dangerous?

What we have already learned about the virus indicates that the coronavirus can survive for quite a while.


Why is it important to find patient zero in any given region?

Patient zero is the first one to contract the virus and/or carry it to a specific geographical area. It is important that they be found because that is how authorities can find out where the infection has come from and so trace back the chain of infections, i.e. find the individuals patient zero may have contacted and infected, and then who else may have caught the disease. Moreover, by examining patient zero may make it possible to establish the original form of the virus before it started mutating.


Many are stockpiling products at home, while others find this to be quite a harmful form of behaviour, as it will cause shortages in stores. What is the proper attitude?

For our grandparents it was only natural to always keep enough water and food at home for even longer periods of time. The times they have lived through have taught them how to manage reserves to survive wars and times of dearth. Today we feel safe in this regard – you can just pop in at the non-stop grocery store any time you want. But this prosperity is a rather fragile one. As “little” as a massive epidemic is enough to close down shops, let alone a major disaster. And the supply an average household has is no more than some flour and canned food enough for about a week, at best.

What we recommend is that everyone should purchase and always keep stock of food and water that should last for a little longer period of time at home. This also allows you to plan your procurements significantly more cost effectively and you may even save time doing so. You see, problems may pop up out of the blue any time (just think of events like a major snowfall) and it may become difficult or downright impossible to go to your local store and buy food and other day-to-day provisions including some common medicines. We all have to learn some basic rules on how to fend for ourselves, and not only because of the coronavirus.

Having weeks of supplies of day-to-day consumer goods at home is particularly important during an epidemic because it spares one from having to go shopping in crowded food stores or supermarkets where the likelihood of contracting the virus is considerably higher. Even simple precautions like going shopping at less intensive hours helps reduce the risk of infection. And if you have ample reserves in your pantry and fridge you are much more free to choose when you go shopping.


CAN THE VIRUS BE TRANSMITTED THROUGH BREAST-FEEDING?

There isn’t much data about pregnant women, new-borns or expectant mothers infected with coronavirus, yet. We’ve heard of babies born with the coronavirus, and it is also clear that breast feeding implies such a close physical contact that it is easy to transmit the virus. But all in all, present statistics on babies and expectant mothers are not enough to make clear statements. The only solution is protection: avoid infection in every possible way, protect them actively.


IS THE VIRUS DANGEROUS FOR THE FOETUS?

There isn’t sufficient data regarding the potential harmful effects of the new coronavirus on the foetus. If you or a family member is pregnant, follow carefully the general precautions that apply to others. Wash hands frequently, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, don’t visit public areas, choose voluntary separation.


CAN WE TAKE THE VIRUS INTO OUR HOMES WITH OUR CLOTHES OR PERSONAL OBJECTS?

Yes, we can. An object contaminated with a virus can be infectious for a long time, in extreme cases even for several weeks.

Therefore, you should take off your shoes in front of the entrance door before entering a place, because shoe soles can also be a source of infection. When you get home, change your clothes immediately and put the clothes you were wearing outside in a separate, isolated place. You can make your outdoor garments safe again by washing them at 60 degrees and by ironing them; keep the clothes in a separate place until washing them (e.g. in a nylon bag).

Disinfect the objects used outside (e.g. your cell phone, keys) every time you return home. Objects used outside the flat (e.g. purchased items, bags used outdoors, baskets) should be quarantined for 3 days before being used again. It is best not to bring them into the flat for three days. If you need to bring them in, put the items in a plastic bag and store them without touching for 3 days.


SHALL WE DISINFECT RECENTLY PURCHASED PRODUCTS OR THE ONES DELIVERED TO OUR HOMES?

It is advisable to consider all objects coming from outside as infected. Use protective gloves when you touch them, while shopping or at the time of delivery. Don’t take new items into your home until the packaging hasn’t been removed. Get rid of the packaging outside your flat. If possible, store the newly purchased objects separately for as long as possible, e.g. in your basement and only take them into your flat and use them once you have run out of your previous stock. For example, if you’ve bought a packet of shrink-wrapped flour, get rid of the shrink- wrap immediately and don’t touch the flour. Store it in a separate place until your previous flour stocks have been exhausted.


SHALL I BE AFRAID OF GETTING INFECTED IF I ORDER FOOD ONLINE?

Takeaway restaurants are trying to minimize the risks of infection, but unfortunately there is no strict kitchen protocol that can provide 100% protection. Therefore, it is advisable not to order freshly prepared meals, but to cook them yourselves.

Heat ready meals if required before consumption to kill the potential virus. This is needed because the coronavirus has adapted to the average normal body temperature of 36 degrees, and totally different circumstances are not beneficial for it (e.g., extreme drought, UV radiation, microwave, high temperature). Freezing doesn’t have disinfecting effects because most pathogen agents get inactive in the cold but will become infectious again under the effect of the heat.


CERTAIN MEDICINES ARE SAID TO BE EFFECTIVE IN THE TREATMENT OF THE VIRUS INFECTION. IS THIS TRUE? IS IT WORTH BUYING SOME TYPES OF MEDICINES IN ADVANCE?

Currently we have no knowledge of any medicines available for purchase on the market that can guarantee the cure of the virus. If such medicine is developed, we’ll be informed officially about it and it will be made available on a large scale in the shortest time possible.

For the time being, only symptoms can be relieved with antipyretics as well as with supplementation of vitamins and fluids. Don’t believe in fake news or advertisements that recommend treatment with various medicines! Apparent benevolent fake news is also fake news, and some of it is a scam launched with the abusive intent of making a profit. Remember: since there is no medicine yet, prevention is vital!


ARE THERE ANY MEDICINES THAT ARE WORTH BUYING AND STORING IN ADVANCE?

Yes, there are. But these are not medicines used to cure the coronavirus, they are appropriate to maintain a healthy condition in general. Replenish your own supplies of medicines! Make sure to stock at home a quantity of medicines sufficient for several months, if you take medication regularly: medication for chronic illnesses, painkillers, antipyretics, antispasmodics, allergy medicines, vitamins, charcoal tablets ... any medicines you take regularly, or which are suitable to cure minor illnesses or malaise at home, if needed. You should also have plenty of first aid equipment: wound dressings (sterile gauze, bandages, adhesive tape), disinfectants, wound clips, etc. Health care institutions will be overloaded in the months to come, so be prepared to be able to provide for yourselves in the event of minor accidents or illnesses. If you don’t know how to bandage a wound or handle bleeding, train yourselves as soon as possible - many visual materials can be found on the Internet. Choose an authentic source!


I HAVE A MINOR HEALTH PROBLEM, WHICH DOES NOT REQUIRE URGENT EXAMINATION. SHALL I SEE THE DOCTOR OR SHALL I WAIT?

Although health care institutions are subjected to thorough sanitation procedures, chances are that they’ll continue to represent a potential source of infection, due to the large number of people who turn up there with different health problems. We suggest that you shouldn’t visit the doctor now with minor illnesses that may wait a little longer, rather wait for the epidemic to end.

As health care institutions will become increasingly overburdened by the spread of the epidemic, the health care system might slow down for weeks, even months, e.g. the ambulance will not come out quickly. Therefore, take special care of your own health, avoid accident-prone situations! Avoid doing sports that imply falling down easily, don’t balance at the top of the ladder, don’t try exotic foods or substances that your bodies can react badly to, and so on. Get a good night’s sleep and eat quality food.


CAN ANIMALS GET INFECTED?

There isn’t enough data on the types of pets that can catch and transmit the virus. In mid-March 2020, the WHO declared that dogs cannot catch the coronavirus and ordered the release of quarantined animals. But this doesn’t mean that our pets cannot spread the virus, as it is sure that pathogens can adhere to their bodies. If an infected person strokes lovingly your dog in the street, the virus will be passed on to us through body surface contamination.

Consequently, don’t let anyone stroke your pet in this period! Pay more attention to the hygiene of the dogs and cats you take outside: wash your hands each time you’ve stroked them. After the walk, it is worth wiping their paws with a disinfectant towel.


CAN THE VIRUS SPREAD WITH THE USE OF BANKNOTES?

Yes, it can. We know for sure that the virus can live on various surfaces for a long time. If given the chance, omit paying with banknotes and use your credit card instead, for security reasons. If you do need to touch banknotes, put on protective gloves or at least clean your hands thoroughly after paying.


I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH PROTECTIVE GLOVES. HOW CAN I SAVE ON THEM?

In situations that don’t require short and complex hand movements, you can protect yourselves by using a paper towel (e.g., if you touch only one door handle), which you should throw away immediately after.

The cheapest rubber gloves available in large packages, are perfect to protect yourselves from getting contaminated through physical contact. Buy several packages! If you want to save on gloves, don’t wash or throw them away after use, just “quarantine” them immediately in a zip lock plastic bag and place them in a separate place for a month. During all this time, the pathogens on the glove are sure to become inactive. Then, after a while take them out, wash them, dry them, and use them again. That is, protective gloves can be used alternately each month. If we use 1 pair of gloves a day, 30 pairs of gloves will be enough for the months of the epidemic.


CAN THE VIRUS SPREAD THROUGH MOSQUITO BITES?

We don’t know whether mosquito bites can spread the coronavirus or not, due to the lack of sufficient data.


CAN PEOPLE WHO HAVE RECOVERED FROM THE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE GET CONTAMINATED AGAIN?

We can’t rule it out due to the lack of sufficient information.


I’M AFRAID OF THE CORONAVIRUS! WHAT CAN I DO TO CALM DOWN?

It is understandable to get frightened in the current situation. The coronavirus epidemic is a critical situation and most people become nervous when they face difficult situations. Fear is an important reaction as it urges us to do everything we can to avert danger. It’s also natural that some people get more irritated, depressed, or anxious than usual, for a while, until they get used to their new lifestyle. We have to go through these phases of transition to the new situation.

But if fear or anxiety persists in the long run, it can paralyze our ability to act and can even make us sick. Persistent anxiety, when someone can no longer think of anything else but the virus, will become a serious mental burden that can ruin our everyday life. We also need to start counteracting our negative feelings for our own sake and for that of our loved ones. Not to suppress them, but to live them, process them and counteract them with positive experiences.

This is not the end of the world! Yes, there will be difficult and sometimes critical situations, but we’ll be able to cope with them if we don’t panic and maintain our composure when taking action. Maintaining our peace of mind is as important a task as following the rules of prevention. Constant stress reduces our mental strength and makes it easier for us to get sick. Yes, there is evidence that persistent negative stress weakens the immune system! That is, we also support our health by maintaining our focus, good humour, and optimism. Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to make ourselves feel better. Above all, we should get aware of the fact that we aren’t drifting with events but are keeping the situation under control. We can do a lot for prevention - if we do our best, it’ll give a well-founded sense of security.

Are you working from home these weeks? Set a daily agenda and keep to it! Don`t let your days pass by in vain! Join forces with your colleagues and friends and give a framework to your days. You won’t feel that you are living in a vacuum, anymore. Set your goals every day and every week – with each goal you achieve, you’ll feel that you’ve taken control of your life again.

We recommend that you don’t watch the news continually! The press formulates in a threatening manner on purpose. Don’t let horrifying headlines mark your mood for the whole day. And don’t talk only about the coronavirus! Read the latest information every day, but don’t deal only with it. Rather read books, watch good movies, start learning something ... Use your mental capacity for something that is really constructive for you. Think about what you’ve been saying in recent years, “when I have time, I’ll…”. You have time now, do it now and enjoy it!

Consume less caffeine because it makes you more tense, and don’t treat your anxiety with alcohol or other psychoactive drugs by no means. You’d better move a little! You can also do some workout at home for half an hour a day. Believe me, it’ll make your day!

Relaxing or meditating several times a day will also help a lot. You can find many relaxation audio materials on the internet. If you can relax your body consciously several times a day, you’ll be much calmer and the regeneration processes in your body will enhance.

The fact that most people are more open, kind and considerate now will also give you a lot of strength. Keep in touch with your beloved ones and friends and enjoy having more time to for each other. Quality relationships and good conversations will chase away your troubles. Support each other, relax as much as possible (you can also have dinner together on Skype) and have a good laugh! If there is tension between you and a beloved one, this is the right time to overcome it.

Observe yourself and think about the things that make you feel distressed day by day (e.g., a conflict, bad news, failure). Eliminate the root of the problem as soon as possible or release your inner tension caused by it. Think of your mental state as of a lifeboat that should be patched immediately after it gets damaged.

At the end of each day think about the beautiful experiences you’ve had that day. Experience them once more in your mind in every detail, “swim” in your sea of pleasant feelings! By doing this, you’ll practically program your brain to focus on positive things as well and thus it’ll stop bombing you with alarming thoughts all day long.

By the time this period of transition ends, make sure you have striven for personal growth. Learn, do workout, nurture your relationships, and focus on what’s really important. By doing so, this current period will become valuable and it will benefit you in the long run!


NOW THAT AN INCREASING NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN QUARANTINING VOLUNTARILY, MOST OF THEM KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE WORLD OUTSIDE VIA THE INTERNET. WHAT CAN WE DO AS USERS TO AVOID OVERLOADING THE NETWORK?

The answer is simple: when possible, reduce your large data traffic or try to handle it during off-peak hours. We’ll give you a few ideas:

  • Don’t email large attachments to a lot of people. Upload them into a cloud storage and pass the link on to everyone.
  • Upload and download large files early in the morning or at night when there are fewer people online.
  • Compress large files before sending them.
  • During the day think of those who need to connect online with others for their work or studies. Enjoy entertaining materials (e.g. online games, video sharing) after work and school classes.
  • If it is absolutely necessary to watch a video, e.g. for your online classes, choose a smaller format!
  • If during a video conference you don’t need to see the other participants, turn off the video and just listen to their voices.

What lessons can we draw from the current situation?

This current coronavirus epidemic gives us a taste of what we are going to have to face a lot in the future. With the global population of billions, global mobility and the inequality resulting from climate change we are bound to meet new viruses, bacteria and other pathogens for which we have no immune response yet. Mankind must adopt and master practices for responding to anything that starts spreading. I am talking about measures like prevention, hygiene, mini quarantines for the ill – and, indeed, even for the healthy –, along with voluntary quarantines and self provision. Communities can achieve much more with such practices than by hospitalising masses of people as a response.

Some of the most effective means of the fight against epidemics come in the form of viral videos, correct data and advice as well as readily consumable facts about prevention, all of which can be spread around the world to an immense audience in no time thanks to the modern communication channels we have at our disposal. It is our responsibility to pass all this information on and spread them as extensively as we possibly can.


What does Lavylites do to protect its own employees?

Lavylites establishments and offices employ more than fifty people we want to protect from potential dangers. Lavylites is a big family, in which we take care of each other. Even before the epidemic appeared in Hungary, we had informed and advised the employees about how to prepare for a possible emergency, individually. Office protocols were re-planned at an early stage. Among other things, the company provided protective equipment, which was distributed among the employees - not only to ensure safe working conditions, but also to help them protect themselves and their loved ones in their private lives.

In the case of most jobs, we switched to teleworking. We didn’t send anyone on business trips abroad in the weeks before the outbreak in Europe. In our European Logistics Centre we have implemented a strict disinfection and infection prevention protocol, similar to that applied in hospitals.

The company won’t let down ill or quarantined employees who won’t be able to work for an extended period of time. We’ll take better care of our temporarily incapacitated employees than it is required by law.


Is Lavylites conducting research on the coronavirus?

Yes, our microbiological and physiological research institute has started working on it, applying a relatively unique approach. We are hoping for quick results.

And the charity fund operated by Tibor Jakabovics has been working on the logistics of stockpiling, with a focus primarily on assets that are vital in an emergency.