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FAQ's on coronavirus

Coronavirus: what you have to know about the disease

When you read a newspaper or turn on the TV these days, the topic of discussion is often the coronavirus. Some of the news is a bit too sensational, but there’s clearly something going on. To prevent unnecessary panic, UAntwerp specialists would like to give you the facts. Depending on how the epidemic evolves, this page will be updated regularly.

Let's start with the most important thing: there’s no need for panic, at the university or elsewhere, not even now that the disease has been diagnosed in Belgium. There are good procedures in place to detect and limit infection, and the majority of infections are ‘self-limiting’, meaning they go away on their own without treatment.

The university has made a list of some frequently asked questions.

Are you a UAntwerp employee or student and do you have specific questions related to the coronavirus and the University of Antwerp, please send an email to coronavirus@uantwerpen.be

FAQ's

What are coronaviruses?

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses which cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronaviruses are originally zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people, although transmission from human to human is also possible.

A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. 


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What is Covid-19?

What is Covid-19?

Covid-19 is the name of a newly discovered coronavirus involved in the current outbreak which started in December in Wuhan, China.

The first cases of this outbreak were described on 31 December 2019. By 7 January, a new virus had been identified by Chinese scientists as the cause of this outbreak, and it was named temporarily ‘2019-nCoV’.

Four weeks since the first detection, the disease has spread worldwide. As the epidemic is still evolving at the time of writing, the figures and the number of countries affected are evolving rapidly.

For a more complete picture of the epidemic
See the dedicated webpage of the World Health Organization (WHO)


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How do people become infected with Covid-19?

How do people become infected with Covid-19?

As this is a very recent outbreak, much is still unclear regarding the transmission of Covid-19 and the spectrum of disease it causes. A significant proportion of the first patients had visited a large seafood market (Wuhan South China Seafood City market) prior to their illness, which suggests an epidemiological link with certain animals sold at the market.

In addition, human-to-human transmission of this virus has also been reported, including health care workers and some family clusters, warranting the use of protective measures such as gloves, glasses, gowns and masks while taking care of patients.

At present, we lack solid information on the extent and importance of this human-to-human transmission. In addition, the Covid-19 has been found as well in faeces from patients; the importance of this finding is still unclear at the moment. In-depth research into all possible ways of transmission will be essential and is ongoing at the moment.


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Can an infection with Covid-19 be treated?

Can an infection with Covid-19 be treated?

At present there are no proven effective antiviral or other treatments available; trials with several antiviral drugs are currently ongoing in China and elsewhere.

Based on the current data, the mortality of this infection is estimated to be about 2-3%, but will probably be less than 1% because many cases are not admitted to hospital and are therefore not included in the calculations. This means that a large proportion of affected people seem to be able to clear this infection with their own immune systems.

In contrast, about 15% of all patients with 2019-nCoV infection are severely ill and need hospitalisation; about 10-15% of them die in the hospital. As a comparison, the average in-hospital mortality due to seasonal influenza in Belgium is 5-6%. Most people who have died from Covid-19 infection were males over 60 years old and had other underlying diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension or immune-suppressing diseases.


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What are the symptoms?

What are the symptoms?

So far, the incubation period has been found to be 2-14 days, although newer data suggest average incubation periods as short as 5-7 days. The main symptoms are very difficult to distinguish from other respiratory infections:

  • acute fever
  • cough
  • muscle pain
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • sometimes diarrhoea
  • Several patients have shown signs of pneumonia on a chest X-Ray.

Our knowledge of the scope of symptoms, including the possible role of asymptomatic carriers, is likely to increase over the next few weeks and months, as more information on the current cases becomes available.

Clearly, the aspecific nature of the symptoms makes this new disease difficult to distinguish from other seasonal respiratory infections.


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Are we prepared for patients with Covid-19-infection in Belgium?

Are we prepared for patients with Covid-19-infection in Belgium?

In February, the virus also arrived in Belgium.

Hospitals and general practitioners in Belgium have been informed of the measures that need to be taken, and the guidelines are being constantly updated based on new data.

In the event that a patient is diagnosed with a Covid-19 infection, all people he or she has recently been in contact with will also be traced and followed up closely.


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I might be infected with Covid-19. What should I do? and how does that happen?

I might be infected with Covid-19. What should I do?

If you have fever and respiratory problems (such as coughing and shortness of breath) and have had contact with a patient with the coronavirus or if there is someone in your immediate vicinity who is ill and has been in a country with the coronavirus, you might be infected with the Covid-19 virus.

Do not go to the waiting room of your doctor or to the emergency department of the hospital. Call your doctor and mention your symptoms and contacts.

Basing himself on a procedure, the family doctor can assess for which persons a test for the coronavirus should be considered. 

Avoid infecting others. Stay at home or in your room until you know whether you are infected with SARS-CoV-2. Keep your distance from other people. Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable handkerchief when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of the handkerchiefs in a bin with a lid and wash hands. Wash or disinfect your hands regularly, especially after sneezing or coughing.

The test, which screens for a specific genetic code unique to this virus, is carried out on a throat and deep nasal swab. The person to be tested is temporarily placed in an isolation room while waiting for the test results (6-8 hours on average). Tests are carried out at the National Reference Laboratory for respiratory viruses (UZ Leuven), at Sciensano and soon at the UZA laboratory as well.

  • If the test result comes back negative (i.e. Covid-19 not found), the person may return home.
     
  • If the test result comes back positive (i.e. Covid-19 was detected), the person will be taken care of in isolation in the hospital. 


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How can I prevent infection with Covid-19 ?

How can I prevent infection with Covid-19 ?

Unfortunately, there is no ‘magic bullet’ to prevent  Covid-19 infection. There is no vaccine or preventive treatment yet.

The use of masks by the general public has not been proven to be effective in preventing the disease on their own. They are difficult to fit properly and they lose their filter capacity once they become wet due to condensation of breath. Therefore they are not recommended.

Nevertheless, there is a set of general hygienic measures which have been recommended by the WHO to prevent the spread of the infection:

  • Frequently clean hands using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
     
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
     
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
     
  • If you have fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider.

Read more advice on World Health Organization


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I have a specific question!

I have a specific question

This page provides general information about the Covid-19 virus and some practical guidelines for prevention and control, but students and staff may well have some very specific questions.

For more information
Please contact coronavirus@uantwerpen.be


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Where can I find additional information?

Where can I find additional information?

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Specific questions

coronavirus@uantwerpen.be