How is the Coronavirus transmitted?

The Coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person when one coughs, sneezes or talks or, for instance, shake hands while infected.  

A transmission via pets has not yet been reported. The virus can survive on surfaces such as Copper and cardboard for a few hours to a number of days.

How serious is the risk of infection in Germany?

The health risk of the new respiratory disease to the population in Germany is currently estimated as “high”, according to the assessment of the Robert Koch Institute, the central German authority for disease monitoring and prevention

The extensive efforts at all levels of the public health service have so far focused on delaying the further spread of the virus as much as they can. By slowing down the spread, they hope to furthur prepare hospitals and facilitate antiviral drugs and vaccine development. You can learn more about the current measures regarding social distancing (designated to slow down the spread) in our chapter “Corona & Social Life”.

Who is particularly at risk?

The risk of a severe illness increases steadily with age, in particular from 50 to 60 years. Older people can become more seriously ill upon infection due to weak immune system function. Since non-specific symptoms of the disease, such as fever, are, in fact, the immune system's response to the infection, they may be weaker or fail to work in older age, which means that the patient usually goes to the doctor in later stages.

Various underlying diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, diseases of the respiratory system, liver and kidney, and cancer appear to increase the risk of developing a severe illness regardless of age.

In older people with pre-existing underlying diseases, the risk of developing a severe illness is higher compared to those in which only one factor (age or underlying condition) is present; if there are several underlying illnesses, the risk is likely to be higher than the case suffering only one underlying disease.

There is a higher risk for patients with suppressed immune systems (e.g. due to a disease that is associated with an immune deficiency or taking medications that suppress the immune system, such as cortisone). It is not yet sufficiently known which combination of risk factors with other (life) circumstances represent a particularly high risk for a severe course of the disease in COVID-19.

According to current knowledge, pregnant women do not seem to face an increased risk compared to other women. Severe case have been rarely seen in children so far. 

How should I know if I have the new virus?

Those infected by the Coronavirus often cough, have runny nose, and suffeer sore throat and fever. All these are very similar to the symptoms of seasonal flue. Some others also suffer deahrria. A number of the infected get very ill and suffer breathing problems of lung infection. 

Please note: It may take up to 14 days before you notice the symptoms. That means one may be infected (and transmit the virus to others) while feeling quite healthy. 

What should I do if I suspect that I am infected?

If you think you may be infected, you should call a doctor or the special helpline 116117. You may have to tray a few times, as currently many people try to contact this number. Do not directly go to doctor’s office and keep as much distance as you can from others. You also need to inform your employer. If you live in an accommodation facility, make sure you let the facility manager know.  

On our Youtube channel, you can find an explainer which tells you more about the steps you need to take if you are infected by the Coronavirus.

There is also another hotline in which you can seek information in German, in case you suspect you may be infected: 

What does self-isolation (“häusliche Quarantäne”) mean?

If you test positive for the coronavirus, you (and your family) will be quarantined, which means you are not allowed to leave your apartment for at least 14 days. You must follow the self-isolation rule. Keep calm and ask friends or neighbours to provide you with groceries or find a delivery service online.

If you are infected with the coronavirus and live in s shared accommodation facility with no private bathroom, the whole place may need to be quarantined. If so, talk to management and (collectively) plan for the coming days. Doing so can make the situation somewhat more bearable for everyone.

Why is Coronavirus so dangerous?

The respiratory illness caused by the virus is known as COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019). In the cases reported so far, four out of five cases were mild. In about 15% of the patients, however, the illness becomes quite severe, leading to breathing problems and pneumonia. Until now, deaths have mainly occurred in patients who were older and/or had previously suffered from chronic underlying diseases. It is currently difficult to estimate the exact death rate of the virus. 

What can I do to prevent the virus from spreading?

The best way to curb the spread of the virus if to follow the measures announced by the authorities. You can find out more in our chapter "Corona and Social life". It is also crucial that we all adhere to the recommended hygiene measures:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap as often as possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent arm when you cough and sneeze or use a tissue.
  • Dispose of used tissues immediately.
  • Stay at home as much as possible.
  • Keep a distance of at least 1.50 meters from those who do not live in the same household.
  • Wear a face mask when outside- You can make one at home without needing a sewing machine. You can find a step-to-step guide to creating a home-made mask on our YouTube channel. Wash your mask every day. Alternatively, you can also cover your mouth and nose with a scarf.

On the website of the Federal Center for Health Education, you can find more information on protocols of conduct during the Coronavirus pandemic.

How well-prepared is Germany?

Germany is quite well-prepared when it comes to treating people with the new virus. The Federal Government has set up a crisis team that meets regularly, focusing on curbing/ slowing down the spread of the virus as much as possible.

The network of competence centres ("Netzwerk von Kompetenzzentern") and special clinics in Germany guarantee care at the highest international level. Germany has a quite effective disease warning and reporting system and pandemic plans.

The Robert Koch Institute works closely with various authorities and institutions on an international and national level. It continuously records the current situation, evaluates all information, creates a risk assessment and publishes it on its website.

Where can I find up-to-date and reliable information on what is going?

Internet is filled with rumours and misinformation about the Coronavirus. That is why it is crucial to seek information from reliable sources. The following sources can provide you with current, verifies information: