The EU’s response to COVID-19
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, previously named 2019-nCoV, was identified in China at the end of 2019 and is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously known in humans.
Where do Coronaviruses come from?
Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals but some of them are also known to affect humans. After they have infected humans, transmission can continue between humans.
A wide range of animals is known to be the source of coronaviruses. For instance, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) originated from camels and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) originated from civet cats.
More information on coronaviruses is available on the ECDC factsheet.
What is the mode of transmission? How (easily) does it spread?
While animals are the source of the virus, COVID-19 is now spreading from one person to another (human-to-human transmission). There is currently not enough epidemiological information to determine how easily and sustainably this virus is spreading between people. It seems to be transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough or exhale. The incubation period for COVID-19 (i.e. the time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms) is currently estimated at five to six days, ranging up to 14 days.
While it is known that the virus can be transmitted when an infected individual has symptoms, there are still uncertainties regarding whether mild or asymptomatic cases can transmit the virus. If people with COVID-19 are tested and diagnosed in a timely manner and rigorous infection control measures are applied, the likelihood of sustained human-to-human transmission in community settings in the EU/EEA is low. Systematic implementation of infection prevention and control measures were effective in controlling SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
From what we know so far, the virus can cause mild, flu-like symptoms such as
- difficulty breathing
- pain in the muscles and
More serious cases develop severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and septic shock that can lead to the death of the patient. People with existing chronic conditions seem to be more vulnerable to severe illness.
Is there a treatment for the disease caused by COVID-19?
There is no specific treatment for this disease so the approach used to treat patients with coronavirus-related infections is to treat the clinical symptoms (e.g. fever). Supportive care (e.g. supportive therapy and monitoring, oxygen therapy, fluid management and antivirals) can be highly effective for those infected.
Is there a vaccine against COVID-19?
There are currently no vaccines against coronaviruses, including COVID-19. That is why it is very important to prevent infection or contain the further spread after an infection.