General Information and FAQs (Symptoms, Precautions, Transmission, Treatment)

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”. There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.

How is COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick. (Reference: WHO)

What are the symptoms of the disease caused by the COVID-19?

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

What precautions should I take personally to reduce the risks of getting infected
with the virus?

There are a number of basic protective measures that you can take. These include:

    • Washing your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Follow these five steps every time.

    1. Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
    2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
    3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
    4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
    5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.
    6. Maintaining a social distance

Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

    • Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands to reduce the chances of virus transmission

    • Practicing respiratory hygiene

Make sure you and the people around you follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

    • Seeking medical care timely

If you have a fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

    • Cleaning ‘high touched’ surfaces

High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, etc.  Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to instructions provided on the label.

Is there any vaccine available?

There is currently no vaccine available to protect people against the disease. However, researchers have started to develop vaccines and are testing them on animals. There is optimism amongst the medical community that human trials could begin later in the year and if the vaccines work, mass production will begin.

How is illness caused by COVID-19 diagnosed?

If individuals are exhibiting any of the symptoms that are mentioned above, or feel that they are unwell, it is strongly recommended that they seek immediate medical help. Doctors that specialize in infectious diseases are among the best in helping confirm a diagnosis of COVD-19.

Are there any specific medicines to treat the illness caused by COVID-19?

There is currently no specific medicine to cure coronavirus.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Since there is currently no cure for the disease, the best course of action is to take precautionary measures for personal hygiene and isolating people infected with the disease.

Which hospitals in Karachi have the facility to diagnose COVID-19?

As per reports, Aga Khan University (AKU) Hospital is at the forefront of medical diagnosis of COVID-19. Isolation wards have also been established at DOW University’s Ojha Campus, Civil Hospital and Lyari Hospital. An Emergency Control Room has also been established at Commissioner House Karachi to deal with any unanticipated situations.

The Health ministry has established a helpline 1166 in a bid to liaison with the general public for adopting precautionary measures to protect from coronavirus.

Do I need to wear a mask at all times?

Advise by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA: CDC released new guidelines on April 3, 2020 recommending that people in the US wear homemade face coverings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States.  We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.  In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.  CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure. (

If people cover their faces with a cloth mask or another barrier, it may blunt the amount of virus-laden particles they release, experts say. There is limited evidence that these types of makeshift masks prevent the spread of disease, though some research shows that they do reduce the amount of particles a person wearing them spreads. Some experts say that they’re better than nothing. The CDC says people should continue to stay six feet apart when in public as much as possible, even if they’re wearing masks.(

For further details of wearing masks and creating your own masks visit

Which type of mask should I wear?

There are two kinds of masks: surgical masks and N95 respirators. N95 respirators filter out most airborne particles from the air. These types of masks are often used when air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke or pollution.

Surgical masks, meanwhile, are designed to keep droplets and splatter from passing from a person’s mouth to nearby surfaces or people. They are primarily meant as a physical barrier to keep healthcare providers or sick people from spreading their own mouth-borne germs. Research has shown that even people who get the coronavirus but don’t show symptoms can spread it.

When worn correctly, N95 respirators block out at least 95% of small airborne particles, so the respirators can filter out some droplets carrying coronavirus. The coronavirus itself measures between .05 and 0.2 microns in diameter, according to an article in The Lancet.

Who needs to wear N95 mask?

Not everyone needs to wear a mask. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], USA does not recommend N95 respirators for use, except for health care workers. Some doctors and health experts are of the view that wearing masks is not entirely effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus.

Can pets at home spread the COVID-19?

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, as a precautionary measure it would better if you wash your hands with soap and water after coming in contact with pets.

Sources of information:

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USA
Medical News
Business Insider