About the coronavirus and how it spreads

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In addition to the spread of the coronavirus, this is also the flu season. Therefore, it is very important to be able to distinguish between coronavirus (COVID-19) and influenza. Although there are still very many unknown factors regarding COVID-19, two main aspects of the disease can be compared.

Symptoms

  • Influenza - fever, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, runny or blocked nose, fatigue, sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea. Most patients recover within less than two weeks. In some patients, flu may cause serious complications, including pneumonia. The prevalence of flu is very similar every year.

  • Covid-19 - coronavirus – fever, cough, breathing difficulties. COVID-19 symptoms have not been completely understood. It is also not yet known how serious these symptoms can be or how many people infected with COVID-19 virus have only very mild symptoms or none at all. Most cases of COVID-19 infection are not serious.

Virus spread

Every person infected with the influenza virus infects an average of 1.3 healthy people.

Coronavirus is more infectious than influenza. Each person infected with the COVID-19 virus infects an average of 2.2 people.

Morbidity

In case of coronavirus or influenza infection, people aged over 60 with weakened immune system and/or chronic diseases are at the highest risk. Co-morbidity increases the disease risk. Children infected with coronavirus usually have mild symptoms or do not have any symptoms. Influenza is much more dangerous for children, especially for very young children who can get severely ill.

Mortality

COVID-19 mortality varies from region to region and depends on age and other factors. Older persons are the most vulnerable. Although COVID-19 mortality is not exactly known, most studies show that it is higher than the influenza mortality.

Treatment

The mortality of influenza would be higher if there were no treatment and vaccination. For the treatment of influenza, there are several prescription medications that have a good impact if they are taken within one or two days of the onset of symptoms. There are also medicines that are given to prevent flu for people who have been in contact with the virus carrier. In addition, there are widely available vaccines against influenza that generate a certain level of immunity.

No specific treatment or any approved antiviral medicine exists yet for COVID-19. Doctors can therefore recommend the usual measures: rest, take medicines to reduce pain and fever, and consume fluids to prevent dehydration. Vaccines exist against COVID-19 but the availability is still limited.

Prevention

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the influenza virus, it is recommended that you should wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, avoid contact with your face if hands are unwashed, avoid contacts with sick people, stay at home in the case of illness, and disinfect surfaces and objects you touch daily.

Seasonality

In the case of influenza, a pattern is observed that the spread of the disease decreases in the spring and returns in the autumn when the weather gets colder.

It is not known whether and how the weather affects the COVID-19 virus. Even if the spread of the COVID-19 virus declines in the spring, it may return in the autumn.

See more about keeping risk groups safe, and limiting the spread of the virus from the Articles of the Institute for Health Development:

Last updated: 15.01.2021 17:32

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COVID-19 symptoms are non-specific and their severity can vary. The disease may not always produce symptoms, but it may also lead to severe pneumonia, which for those belonging to the risk groups in the worst case can also end in death.

The most common symptoms include :

  • fever (89,9%),
  • dry cough (67,7%),
  • fatigue (38.1%),
  • mucus (33,4%),
  • difficulty breathing (18,6%),
  • sore throat (13,9%),
  • headache (13,6%),
  • muscle and joint pain (14,8%),
  • cramps (11,4%),
  • nausea and vomiting (5.0%),
  • congested nose (4,8%),
  • diarrhea (3,7%),
  • coughing blood (0,9%),
  • irritated conjunctiva (0.8%).

 For most people who contract the coronavirus, the disease passes without complications and they get well.  

Reminder - the risk group for this virus includes the elderly as well as people with chronic disease, who often experience the more severe forms of the disease. 

Last updated: 22.09.2020 16:39

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Coronavirus infection can be more severe in people over 60 years of age or in people with chronic conditions. Their body may be weaker due to a decline in the function of the immune system and the disease may turn out to be more severe if such a person is infected.

Examples of chronic diseases include diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, tumours, asthma and other chronic pulmonary diseases, chronic kidney and liver diseases, and immunodeficiency.

Coronavirus spreads from person to person via droplets, mainly in close contact with a sick person. Given the weaker immunity of the elderly and people with chronic conditions, and the main way in which the virus is spread, it is essential to avoid contact with these groups of people as much as possible.

Furthermore, it is not advisable to take your healthy children to their grandparents, because if the children should fall ill, the grandparents are at high risk.

Last updated: 02.04.2020 20:10

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According to current knowledge, pregnant women do not have a greater risk of getting infected with the corona virus than others and when they do get infected they do not suffer more severely. There is also no proof that the virus would go from the mother to her child before or during birth. Pregnant women should follow the same instructions as others, both to avoid getting infected and if they do get infected.

Last updated: 22.09.2020 16:39

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The corona virus does not spread though the ventilation system of an apartment building. Most infections happen through close contact by way of droplet infection when the droplets land on another person’s mucous membrane, i.e. in the nose, mouth or eyes. Infection can also happen from surfaces contaminated with the droplets. For instance, you can get infected by touching a door handle and then your face.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), currently there is not enough reliable evidence that the infection can spread through ventilation systems.

According to Hans Orru, the Associate Professor in Environmental Health at the University of Tartu, the amount of virus particles inhaled is also important. In order to get the necessary amount, there must be a close contact with a sick person or one must be in a small closed room with a sick person. An amount that could carry through the ventilation systems from the neighbours is not enough in a normal situation.

It is still always important to guarantee adequate air exchange in rooms to reduce the amount of virus particles in the rooms of both sick and healthy people. For this we recommend:

  • To air your living spaces regularly
  • In public spaces, to guarantee a good round-the-clock air exchange that would not allow the virus particles and contaminants to accumulate.

The corona virus is capable of attaching itself to aerosols but their amount in air decreases relatively quickly. According to a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, in three hours a sixth of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles remain.

Last updated: 22.09.2020 16:47

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The novel corona virus COVID-19 does not spread with goods coming from foreign countries so it is safe to accept and open postal packages ordered from foreign countries without fear of getting infected.

Last updated: 22.09.2020 16:40

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According to research, coronavirus cannot be transmitted with food, therefore it is not likely food would spread the virus. Coronaviruses need a host body, an animal or a human to survive and multiply.

Last updated: 24.09.2020 15:54

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According to current knowledge, animals do not transmit infections to humans and therefore it is safe for animal keepers to care for them: feed them, treat them, etc. Thousands of pets have been tested around the world, and only in three cases the genetic residue of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing agent have been found in the samples taken from the pets of coronavirus patients. For none of the cases it can be confirmed that a disease in an animal was caused by coronavirus. Based on current knowledge, we can state that the virus residue found in the animal was caused by environmental contamination (the animal’s organism is like any other surface on which the virus deposits).

During the crisis it is also important to pay attention to animal welfare, and animals cannot be neglected.

Last updated: 14.04.2020 15:35

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According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) there is no evidence that anybody has caught the infection from a dead person.

There still might be a certain risk of infection in coming into contact with the bodily fluids of a dead person who had the coronavirus. Therefore, it is better to avoid any kind of contact with a dead person who had given a positive coronavirus sample.

Last updated: 24.09.2020 15:54

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The virus spreads from person to person through droplet infection, mainly by a close contact with a potentially infected person who has symptoms of the infection, primarily a cough.

Thus the virus can spread from person to person in several different ways:

  • Droplets or aerosols. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, the droplets or small particles called aerosols carry the virus from his nose or mouth into the air. Anyone that is closer than 2 meters to this person can breathe them into their lungs. That is why it is important to keep a distance and wear a mask.
  • Spreading through the air. Studies have shown that the virus can live in the air for up to 3 hours. It can get into your lungs if someone who has it exhales and you inhale that air. To prevent this from happening, it is important to air and ventilate rooms often.
  • Surface transmission. Another way to become infected is to touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed onto. For instance, you can get the virus if you touch a contaminated work surface or door knob, and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes. On surfaces like plastic or stainless steel, the virus can live for 2-3 days. To stop the spread of the virus, clean and disinfect all tables, buttons and other surfaces that you or your family touches several times a day.

Most often the virus spreads through symptomatic people. But it is possible to transmit the virus without showing any signs of it. Some people who do not know that they are infected can transmit the virus to others. This is called asymptomatic spread. It is also possible to transmit the virus before the signs of infection are noticed. This kind of infection is called presymptomatic spread.

The best way to contain the spread of the virus is to limit contacts with other people. There are several ways to do this:

  • If you can, work from home.
  • Avoid travelling, if possible. This is especially important if you or somebody you live with is older than 65 years of age or has a chronic disease. This increases the risk that the progression of the disease will be more severe.
  • Keep contact with your family and friends by phone and computer instead of meeting them face-to-face.
  • If you do need to go out, stand at least 2 meters away from people.
  • Wear a face mask when going out.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • If you are sick, stay at home in a separate bedroom away from others.
  • If possible, buy your groceries and medicines online.

Last updated: 24.11.2020 11:25

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can present themselves in many animal species. Usually these are inherent to host species and thus do not spread easily between different species of animals. There are known coronavirus diseases for many animal species and these should not be confused with the COVID-19 virus that is currently spreading among humans.

Pets also have their own coronaviruses. For instance, there are two known coronaviruses that cause diseases among dogs: one causes intestinal symptoms and the other causes respiratory tract symptoms. The coronavirus of cats causes intestinal symptoms and sometimes severe infectious peritonitis (FIP). There are many different viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory tract symptoms in animals. Initial experimental studies have also found that in test conditions, cats and ferrets can catch SARS-CoV-2 more easily than other animal species. Still, a precondition for the infection is that the animal has been in a close contact with a human who has COVID-19. If all the humans that live in the same environment as the animal are healthy, the respiratory tract symptoms the animal has are probably caused by some other pathogens.

More info on the web page of the Agriculture and Food Board.

Last updated: 25.01.2021 11:19

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A person with COVID-19 does not need to take any special protective measures to handle animals, for instance pets. We recommend that all sick people avoid excessive contacts with animals, and wash their hands thoroughly before handling pet food an after cleaning out the litter box. If possible, a healthy family member should be asked to manage the everyday care of pets.

More info on the web page of the Agriculture and Food Board.

Last updated: 25.01.2021 11:19

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More information about the coronavirus and restrictions related to it is available calling 1247 (from abroad +372 600 1247).