Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most asked questions

What is known about COVID-19 regarding children and pregnant women?

According to previous data the symptoms of COVID-19 are significantly less pronounced in children than in adults. No data is available on the actual contribution of children and adolescents to transmission in the population. Due to the high contagiosity of the virus and the close contact between children and adolescents it seems plausible that transmissions take place.

According to the WHO and its data from China pregnant women do not appear to have an increased risk of developing a serious illness. So far, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transferable to the unborn child. A transmission to the newborn child is possible via close contact and droplet infection, but so far there has been no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk. However, there is currently insufficient data to reliably answer these and other questions about COVID-19 during pregnancy.

Source: RKI, 16th March 2020

Can you get vaccinated against COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine available to protect against infection with the new coronavirus. Vaccines are being worked on intensively worldwide. It is not yet possible to say when a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 will be available.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic the health system is under severe strain. It is therefore important to maintain the best possible general health status in the population so that as little additional medical help as possible is required. Comprehensive vaccination protection in accordance with the current STIKO recommendations can help. It is therefore advisable to check the vaccination status and to make up for missed vaccinations if necessary. This applies in particular to vaccinations that protect against infections of the respiratory organs, and generally to vulnerable groups of people.

When contacting doctors to receive these recommended vaccinations it should be clarified by telephone beforehand that the practice visit can take place without contact with patients with symptoms of a respiratory infection and whether vaccine is available.

Source: RKI, 16th March 2020

When do you have to be in quarantine?

If there is a high risk of being infected:

  • if you have had close contact with a patient with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis within the past two weeks. A really close contact either means that you have spoken to the patient for at least 15 minutes, or have been coughed up or sneezed while they were contagious.
  • whenever the health department orders it.

You don’t have to be in quarantine if you:

  • have been in the same room with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 for the past two weeks without close contact,
  • have been in an area with increasing case numbers of COVID-19,

because there is less risk of being infected.

Anyone who works with people with previous illnesses (hospital, elderly care, etc.) should always inform their company doctor. And for everyone: daily self-monitoring for signs of illness. If there are signs of a respiratory infection: see “Should you have a test done for a respiratory disease, even if it is only mild symptoms (coughing, sneezing, sore throat, etc.)?”

Anyone who has had contact with someone in their family, friends or acquaintances, who in turn has had contact with a COVID-19 patient confirmed in the laboratory, but is completely healthy, does not need to be in quarantine. In this case, you are not a contact person, have no increased risk of COVID-19 disease and cannot infect anyone. In the case of symptoms of a respiratory disease, however, you should get a test.

Source: RKI, 16th March 2020

Should I have a test done for a respiratory illness, even if it is only mild symptoms (coughing, sneezing, sore throat, etc.)?

Yes if:

  • there has been contact with a patient in the past two weeks for whom a COVID-19 diagnosis was made in the laboratory
  • you have been in an area in which there were already many COVID-19 diseases
  • you have a previous illness or the respiratory disease gets worse (shortness of breath, high fever etc.)
  • if you come into contact with people at work or voluntary work who are at high risk of serious illnesses (e.g. in hospitals or geriatric care)

Even before the test result is available, you should isolate yourself, i.e. stay at home, avoid all close contacts under 2 meters, maintain good hand hygiene and wear mouth and nose protection when in contact with others (if available).

Source: RKI, 16th March 2020

Does it make sense to wear mouth-nose protection in the general population to protect against acute respiratory infections?

In the general population the most important and most effective measures for personal protection and for protecting other people from being infected with pathogens caused by respiratory infections are good hand hygiene, compliance with coughing and sneezing rules and keeping away (approx. 1 to 2 meters) from suspected people .

If a person suffering from an acute respiratory infection has to move around in public space, wearing a mouth-nose mask (e.g. a surgical face mask) by this person can be useful to reduce the risk of infecting other people with droplets that occur when coughing or sneezing to reduce (third party protection). For optimal effectiveness, it is important that the nose and throat protector is properly seated (i.e. worn close-fitting), changed when wet, and that no (even unconscious) manipulation is carried out on it during wear.

On the other hand, there is insufficient evidence that wearing mouth-nose protection significantly reduces the risk of infection for a healthy person who wears it. According to the WHO, wearing a mask in situations where this is not recommended can create a false sense of security, which can neglect central hygiene measures such as good hand hygiene.

This does not affect the recommendations for the wearing of respiratory masks by medical personnel in the sense of occupational safety (see “Which hygiene measures should be taken in medical facilities when caring for and treating patients with unspecific acute respiratory infections?”)

Source: RKI, 16th March 2020

Is there a risk of becoming infected with the new type of corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) from imported food, surfaces or objects?

With coronaviruses, which can cause respiratory diseases, the transmission takes place primarily via secretions of the respiratory tract. If these infectious secretions reach the hands, which then touch the face, for example, it is possible that a transmission also takes place in this way. This is why good hand hygiene is an important part of prevention. On the other hand, transmission via inanimate surfaces has not yet been documented. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 over surfaces that are not in the immediate vicinity of a symptomatic patient, such as Imported goods, mail items or luggage appear unlikely. In general, thorough hand washing, as recommended by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), is an important part of personal hygiene and can prevent a variety of other infections such as e.g. Protect gastrointestinal diseases.

Irrespective of this, the Robert Koch Institute has no tasks in the field of food or object evaluation. Questions on the subject belong to the area of ​​responsibility of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is responsible for the topic of occupational safety.

Source: RKI, 16th March 2020

Who is particularly affected?

In some of the people affected, the coronavirus can lead to a more severe course with breathing problems and pneumonia. Although severe courses can also occur in people without previous illness, according to the Federal Center for Health Education, the following groups of people have an increased risk of serious courses:

  • Older people (with a steadily increasing risk of severe course from around 50 to 60 years)
  • Smokers
  • People with certain pre-existing diseases of the heart and lungs
  • Patients with chronic liver diseases
  • Cancer patients
  • Patients with a weakened immune system.

In children, the disease appears to be comparatively rare and then to be mild.

According to the WHO, pregnant women do not appear to have an increased risk of developing a serious illness.

Source: NDR, 18th March 2020

Are you immune after surviving infection?

Covid-19 patients develop antibodies after infection with the virus. This is also indicated by a study with monkeys, said virologist Christian Drosten in the NDR Info Podcast Coronavirus Update. “We didn’t expect anything else based on experience with other corona viruses, such as the Sars or Mers pathogens,” said Isabella Eckert from the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University Hospital in Geneva. “However, we do not yet know how long this immunity lasts. If one assumes an analogy to the other coronaviruses, one could assume a period of a few years: With Sars, for example, antibodies are detectable for three to five years.”

Source: NDR, 18th March 2020

Should I worry about COVID-19?

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones.

We can channel our concerns into actions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. First and foremost among these actions is regular and thorough hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene. Secondly, keep informed and follow the advice of the local health authorities including any restrictions put in place on travel, movement and gatherings.

WHO, 18th March 2020

Can humans become infected with the COVID-19 from an animal source?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Occasionally, people get infected with these viruses which may then spread to other people. For example, SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels. Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed.  

To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.

Source: WHO, 18th March 2020