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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are coronaviruses?
    What are coronaviruses? Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause infection in humans and various animals, including birds and mammals such as camels, cats and bats. Some animal coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are communicable from animals to humans. To date, it has been confirmed that seven coronaviruses can also cause infection in humans. When animal coronaviruses evolve, infect humans and spread between humans, this can lead to outbreaks such as MERS-CoV and SARS.
    Where did the new coronavirus (COVID-19) originate? COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus which has not previously been detected in humans. The outbreak started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. The outbreak initially appeared to be linked to South China Seafood City. Seafood, chickens, bats, marmots and other wild animals are sold at this market, suggesting that the virus likely originates from an animal source. The virus is human-to-human transmissible and has meanwhile spread to other countries.
  • What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus ? Wie zijn de risicogroepen?
    What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus (COVID-19)? The symptoms range from mild to severe respiratory disorders with fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. The elderly and people with existing chronic conditions appear to be more vulnerable to serious symptoms. Certain population groups are considered to be more at risk; they are more vulnerable to developing serious symptoms. These are mainly people over 65 years of age and people suffering from serious chronic diseases.
    What does a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection mean for a healthy person in their twenties, thirties or forties? The chance that a healthy person in their twenties, thirties or forties will get the coronavirus is just as high as the chance that someone else becomes infected by the virus. Hospital admissions and other complications related to the coronavirus are rare within this age group. However, complications are rare in this age group, which means that few people need to be hospitalised due to the coronavirus.
    Who is more at risk? People over 65 years of age, people with diabetes, people with heart disease, lung or kidney disease and people whose immune system is weakened.
    Are pregnant women more at risk? There is no scientific evidence that pregnant women are more vulnerable to this infection or to its consequences. It is reassuring that there are few pregnant women among the very ill. There are also very few serious cases of infection among women of childbearing age. There is no evidence that an infection during pregnancy has a negative effect on the fetus or that the virus can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.
    Are children more at risk of being infected? Children may also become infected with the coronavirus, but they run little risk of becoming very ill. However, they can easily transmit the virus, even if they have no symptoms yet. We therefore advise avoiding contact between children and risk groups, such as their grandparents.
    I run a higher risk to become severely ill with the coronavirus, what should I do? Stay home as much as possible. Avoid contact with others outside your family and follow all hygiene measures carefully. It is also better for family members to avoid contacts with other people.
    Am I protected against COVID-19 if I got vaccinated against influenza or pneumococcus this year? Influenza and the virus that causes COVID-19 are two very different viruses. The seasonal influenza vaccine does not protect against COVID-19. The pneumococcal vaccine does not protect against viral pneumonia.
  • How does the coronavirus spread?
    How does the coronavirus spread? The coronavirus spreads from human to human via small droplets that are released when coughing and sneezing. Via these droplets, the virus ends up in the air, on objects and surfaces. Whoever inhales these droplets or gets them through their hands into their mouth, nose or eyes can become infected with the virus. There is no evidence that the contamination occurs through the skin. The risk of infection is reduced by keeping more than a metre away from sick people, touching one’s face as little as possible and paying attention to good hand hygiene.
    Does it make sense to wear a face mask for protection against the novel coronavirus? Wearing face masks to prevent coronavirus infection, only makes sense in hospitals where patients with the coronavirus are treated and in laboratories where specimens of these patients are tested. For the time being, wearing face masks in public places has no added value at all.

    If you want to know more about the usefulness of a mouth mask, please read theinterview with Dr Steven Van Gucht, Virology Professor and Chairman of the Scientific Committee Coronavirus.

    How long does the corona virus survive on smooth surfaces and materials, and can I get infected like this? The corona virus can survives several hours (possibly days) on smooth surfaces and materials (such as door handles, handrails, tables, etc.). Anyone who ingests virus droplets through the hands in the mouth, nose or eyes can become infected with the virus. It is important to wash hands regularly and thoroughly after contact with surfaces that are touched by many people. By disinfecting a surface, the virus particles are removed. On absorbent material (such as cardboard, paper, textiles...) the virus cannot survive well. The virus is very sensitive to dehydration, heat and sunlight.
    Will the coronavirus disappear in the spring? There is currently no evidence that the coronavirus will slow down or disappear due to spring weather. If we compare with other coronaviruses, it is possible that the new virus will also show a seasonal course, and that spring will slow down the spread due to higher temperatures and UV light. After a few months out of circulation, the virus may come back later. However, it is too early to know the pattern of this virus.
    I am a train controller, a receptionist, I work at the airport desk: is it dangerous to constantly take objects from people? Taking and touching objects from people and passing them on is hard to avoid. Hence the importance to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Try to be especially careful to touch your face with your hands as little as possible.
    Can I get infected if I order a package from China? Corona viruses spread via humans and animals. They cannot generally survive outside the body. Certainly not on cardboard, packaging or other items. Other Corona viruses do not spread in this way, and we have no reason to believe that this is different for this new Corona virus.
    Can I be contaminated through food? To this day, food has not been identified as a probable source or route of transmission of the virus. In addition, coronaviruses are not highly resistant viruses in the environment and are rapidly inactivated when they end up on surfaces. In the current state of knowledge, the likelihood of a consumer becoming contaminated with Covid-19 through food is therefore very low and unproven. Whatever the case, the FASFC reminds professionals that compliance with good hygiene practices is essential and prevents most contaminations:
    • - Prepare food separately, especially when handling raw meat,
    • - Wash food preparation surfaces, especially those used for raw meat preparations, with soap and hot water,
    • - Wash hands with soap and warm water between each handling of food,
    • - Cook all raw meat sufficiently (70°C through for at least 2 minutes),
    • - Avoid preparing food if you are sick.

    Can pets infect humans if they have been in contact with infected persons? The risk of contracting Covid-19 through contact with pets is currently considered negligible, as Covid-19 is mainly transmitted through close contact between humans. Even though Covid-19 is suspected to have originated from wild animals and has since adapted to humans (making it a ‘humanised’ virus), until now there is no evidence to suggest that pets pose a risk to humans due to the transmission of Covid-19. That is why we advise you to apply the general rules of hygiene (avoid close contact with your pet, especially if you are sick, wash your hands after touching an animal) if you come into contact with animals that may carry the virus for a brief period of time due to environmental contamination.
  • What is the situation in Belgium?
    For the latest news on the situation in Belgium
    - Visit the "News" section of this website
    - See also the epidemiological bulletin on the Sciensano website.
  • I may be infected with the coronavirus. What should I do?
    What symptoms should I look out for If you feel sick, have a cough, a sore throat, breathing difficulties, the coronavirus is one of the viruses you may have contracted.
    What should I do if these criteria are met? Stay home, call your doctor and report your symptoms. Don't go to the waiting room or the emergency room. The general practitioner will determine by telephone whether you can recover at home or have to go to hospital. More information:
    How can I avoid infecting the people around me? How can I avoid getting infected if someone around me is infected?

    We have prepared a number of tips for people in isolation and those around them. You can find them in French | Dutch | German.

  • How should I wash my hands?
    • · Wash your hands, preferably with warm or lukewarm running water and liquid soap.
    • · If you are on the road and cannot wash your hands, touch your face as little as possible and wash your hands on arrival.
    • · If you don't have water, soap and a towel nearby and still want to wash your hands, you can use alcohol gel.

    You can find instructions on how to wash hands properly online.
    Source: Your are in good hands
    (Campaign FPS Health Belgium)