Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that have already been in existence. Symptoms of the illness range from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). COVID-19 (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are present both in humans and in animals.
COVID-19 is spread from one person to another through:
- Coughing and sneezing (via droplets)
- Hands which have become contaminated with the virus after touching contaminated surfaces or
- Through direct contact with a person infected with the coronavirus (such as caring for a sick person)
From the current information known to date, the common symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure, and are one of the below:
- Shortness of Breath
How severe is the infection?
It is IMPORTANT to note that the reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness which may lead to death.
Steps to prevent the illness
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person. How?
- Between people who are in close contact with one another
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. These droplets can persist for a few hours or days, depending on the surface or object it lands on. Infection with COVID-19 can happen if you touch these objects and surfaces and then touch your eyes, nose and/or mouth.
Take these necessary steps to protect yourself:
- Start by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Remember to be thorough. Wash each finger, the palms of your hands, the top of your hands, thumbs and wrists.
- When and if soap and water aren’t readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid close contact with people. Keep a 1-metre distance.
- DO NOT sneeze or cough into your hands as you may contaminate objects or people that you touch.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a bent elbow or a tissue when sneezing.
- Dispose of used tissues immediately in bins. Do not leave tissues lying around.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and Disinfect high contact areas daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.
Actions being taken by Maltese Health Authorities
The Maltese authorities are taking the necessary precautions in relation to coronavirus, through various actions:
- Call the Malta National COVID-19 Helpline on 111 (or +356 111 from abroad).
- Thermal screening of all passengers arriving at Malta International Airport, Cruise liner and Catamaran Terminals.
- Travel advice for passengers travelling to or returning from affected areas is available at airport, ports, freeports and cruise liner terminals.
- A coordinating team for national response is being led by the Superintendence of Public Health.
- Constant communication with WHO, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the EU Health Security Committee. The European Council is organizing regular teleconferences for all Member States to which Malta Public Health authorities participate to receive updates and advice on actions.
- Enhanced surveillance to detect suspected cases early.
- Communication with media, advice to clinicians and traveller’s advice.
- Preparedness plans at Mater Dei Hospital and Primary Care have been set up to isolate, diagnose and treat any suspected and confirmed cases.