Coronavirus man with face mask


    The coronavirus has Europe’s and the rest of the world’s attention. Never before has a pandemic been declared of such global dimension. The coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has claimed many victims. And the economic impact has been severe to say the least.

    Coronavirus vs. the flu: how to tell the difference

    The flu and coronavirus have similar symptoms, namely fever and respiratory problems. The only way to find out if you have contracted COVID-19 is to get tested.

    Because the virus can mutate, new variants of the coronavirus keep emerging. Some of these variants can be more infectious or have different symptoms.

    What treatments are available?

    Many people feel insecure or are concerned about their health. On this page, you can read more about the coronavirus: how to recognise it, what medicines are available for COVID-19, and what you can do to prevent infection or treat the symptoms.

    What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

    People infected with coronavirus don't always fall ill, and the symptoms may differ from one person to the next. A majority of those infected will only have mild symptoms such as a nose cold. Others develop mild flu-like symptoms. The most common symptoms include:

    • Fever
    • Coughing
    • Fatigue
    • Sudden loss of smell and/or taste (without nasal congestion)

    Less common:

    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Aches and pains
    • Diarrhoea
    • Skin rash or discoloured toes or fingers

    Severe symptoms:

    • Shortness of breath and respiratory problems
    • Motor dysfunction or speech impairment
    • Delirium or confusion
    • Chest pain

    If your symptoms are severe, you should seek urgent medical attention! This also applies to people over the age of 70, people with a chronic illness and people with weak immune systems.

    Is COVID-19 a deadly disease?

    The vast majority of people who get COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms that don't require special treatment. They can simply stay home for several days until the symptoms clear up. Some people develop more serious complications such as COVID pneumonia or respiratory problems. Their symptoms are so severe that they need to be hospitalised. The elderly, people with a chronic illness and people with weak immune systems have a higher risk of hospitalisation.

    Only a small percentage of seriously ill patients die due to COVID-19. Elderly people or people with an underlying or serious condition are most at risk of being infected and developing severe or even lethal illness. The chances of young, healthy people dying due to COVID complications are extremely slim.

    Who have a higher risk of getting COVID-19?

    Most healthy people with strong immune systems can quickly fight off the infection. They tend to develop mild symptoms or no symptoms at all if the virus enters their body. However, there are also people with compromised immune systems. For instance, people with an underlying medical condition or elderly people. This group is more likely to develop more severe symptoms.

    People who fall within the high-risk category include:

    • The over-70s.

    People who suffer from one of the following conditions:

    • Abnormalities and dysfunctions of the respiratory tract and lungs.
    • Chronic heart disease.
    • Diabetes mellitus (diabetes).
    • Severe kidney disease leading to dialysis or kidney transplant.

    People with reduced resistance to infections due to, for example:

    • Use of medication for autoimmune diseases.
    • Organ transplant.
    • Haematological diseases (blood diseases).
    • Congenital or later immune disorders requiring treatment.
    • Chemotherapy and/or radiation in cancer patients.
    • HIV infection.

    If you are in this high-risk category, you should avoid contact with others. Stay home as much as possible, especially if you feel unwell or have cold or flu-like symptoms. Call your doctor if you have a fever (38 degrees Celsius or higher) in combination with other symptoms such as a cough or breathing difficulties.

    How do I avoid catching COVID-19?

    You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

    • Keep other people at a distance as much as possible. Social distance while shopping and limit contact with others.
    • Wash your hands regularly.
    • Cough or sneeze on the inside of your elbow. By sneezing or coughing in your arm you reduce the chance of the virus getting on your hands and onto surfaces (e.g. door handles) or infecting others by touching them.
    • Use paper tissues to blow your nose. Dispose of tissues directly after use and wash your hands.
    • Ensure rooms are properly ventilated, also in wintertime.
    • Stay home if you have symptoms and have yourself tested immediately.
    • Don't shake hands.
    • Wash your hands as soon as you come home.
    • Avoid touching your face as much as possible in indoor public places.
    • Wear a face mask where it is mandatory.
    • Get vaccinated against coronavirus. If you have no medical reason for not taking the vaccine, then do so to protect yourself and others. People who are vaccinated have milder symptoms if they become infected with COVID-19 and are therefore less likely to be hospitalised.

    It is also very important to keep your immune system strong. Make sure you get plenty of rest, eat healthily and try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Nutritional supplements can be used to supplement your diet with extra vitamins and/or minerals.

    What should I do if I have COVID?

    Do you have COVID symptoms despite having taken all the necessary precautions? If you only have mild symptoms, you can treat the illness as you would the common cold or flu. Over-the-counter products can help to alleviate your symptoms. A healthy lifestyle also helps your body to recover quicker. Here are some tips:

    • Painkillers help lower fever and reduce pain. Preferably use paracetamol. Paracetamol has the least side effect potential compared to other painkillers.
    • A nasal spray opens up your airways to help you breathe more easily. Try a salt-water solution first. Salt-water solutions can be used long term and are also safe for use in children. Nasal sprays that contain medication should not be used for more than a few days.
    • Cough syrup and throat lozenges ease a sore throat and also help to suppress coughing. Sucking on plain hard candy or a piece of liquorice may also provide temporary relief.
    • Drink plenty of water and make healthy and varied food choices.
    • Make sure you get plenty of rest. Your body needs sleep to fight the infection.

    In addition, it is also very important to avoid contact with others for as long as you have symptoms. This way, you reduce the chance of the coronavirus spreading. Stay indoors and try to separate yourself from your housemates as much as possible. Use clean towels, dish clothes and bed linen as often as possible and wash dirty laundry regularly.

    However, if you haven't been tested for coronavirus, it is also possible that you've had the regular flu. Therefore, it is important to follow the government's general coronavirus measures after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

    When should I call a doctor?

    If your symptoms are severe, you should call your doctor immediately. In any case if you get sicker or your breathing problems get worse. Special risk groups (anyone older than 70, people with chronic health conditions or people with weakened immune systems) are extra vulnerable if they are infected with COVID-19 and should contact a doctor immediately if they have a fever with coughing or breathing problems. Stay at home and contact a doctor by telephone. If needed, the doctor will come to your home to see you.

    What treatments are available for COVID-19?

    If you are not ill but may be infected, for example because you've been in contact with an infected person, you should self-isolate (quarantine). Be sure to follow government rules while in quarantine.

    If you have symptoms but are not very ill, you should also self-isolate. Only people with severe symptoms are hospitalised, if necessary. Practising self-quarantine means that you are not allowed to go outside until you've completely recovered and are no longer contagious to other people. If you have recovered and remain symptom free for at least 24 hours, you can safely assume that you are cured and can no longer infect others.

    In the meantime, while the world waits for vaccines and medications, we can take action to slow the spread of the virus. This is where basic principles such as good hygiene and social distancing come in. These shielding measures are critical in order to also protect vulnerable people in our communities.

    What medicines are used for COVID-19?

    Over-the-counter medications that are most recommended are paracetamol and possibly a nasal spray.

    Two medications have been approved for the treatment of COVID-19: remdesivir (an antiviral medicine) and dexamethasone (an anti-inflammatory medicine).

    Medicines that possibly target the virus itself:

    • Experimental monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies may block the virus from adhering to your cells and help neutralise it.
    • Ivermectin. This medicine is used to treat parasite infestations and is currently being reviewed as a treatment for COVID-19. Until more data is available, WHO advises that ivermectin only be used within clinical trials.
    • Molnupiravir. This antiviral medicine may reduce the ability of the virus that causes COVID-19 to multiply in the body.
    • Hydroxychloroquine. Recent studies show that hydroxychloroquine is not useful in treating COVID-19 and causes unwanted and risky side effects. The medicines authorities have warned against the use of this medicine.

    Medicines that target the immune system:

    • Tocilizumab. This medicine inhibits the binding of interleukin-6 (IL-6) to its receptors, which can help to diminish hyperinflammation processes in patients with COVID-19 infection.
    • Anakinra. This medicine treats inflammation in COVID-19 patients by blocking interleukin-1 (IL-1).
    • Baricitinib. This medicine seems to work against COVID-19 by reducing inflammation.

    Fang, L., Karakiulakis, G., & Roth, M. (2020). Are patients with hypertension and diabetes mellitus at increased risk for COVID-19 infection? The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

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    National Institute of Public Health and the Environment. (2020a, 18 March). Novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Consulted on 19 March 2020 on

    National Institute of Public Health and the Environment. (2020b, 18 March). Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) questions & answers. Consulted on 19 March 2020 on

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