COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets from the nose or mouth and can spread from person-to-person when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. Droplets may land on objects or surfaces around an infected person and others may catch COVID-19 when touching objects or surfaces, followed by touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

It is possible for the virus to spread before exhibiting symptoms, however people are most contagious when they are symptomatic.

The symptoms and complications of confirmed COVID-19 cases have ranged from mild sickness to severely ill and dying. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Associated symptoms may include sore throat, runny nose, body aches, or chills

Based on symptoms associated with similar family viruses, like MERS-CoV, it is believed that symptoms of COVID-19 may occur as quickly as 2 days up to 14 days after exposure.

In addition, if you have traveled to a country with confirmed cases and showing signs and symptoms, notify a healthcare professional immediately or call 114.

Currently there is no vaccine for COVID-19. The following are recommendations to prevent illness and to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Wash your hands
  • Wash your hands often with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds, handwashing is especially important
    • After being in a public space
    • After coughing or sneezing
    • When caring for the sick
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating
    • After toilet use
    • When hands are visibly dirty
    • After handling animals or animal waste
  • If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
Avoid close contact
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick
  • It is important to keep a distance between yourself and others
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick. If you are experiencing fever, cough, or difficulty breathing seek medical attention
Cover coughing and sneezing
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or a flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • Throw tissues in the trash
  • Immediately wash hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
Clean and disinfect your surroundings
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily including work areas, tables, doorknobs, countertops, handles, desks, phones, and computers.
  • If surfaces are visibly dirty use detergent or soap and water prior to using a disinfectant
Wear a facemask ONLY if you are sick
  • If you are sick, wear a facemask when you are in a shared space and before entering a health facility
  • If you are not sick, a facemask should not be worn unless you are caring for someone who is sick

Protection measures for those who have recently visited, past 14 days, areas where COVID-19 is confirmed and spreading

  • Self-quarantine at home if you are not feeling well. Even if experiencing mild symptoms such as low grade fever (37.3 C or higher), slight runny nose, or headache it is best to stay home until you recover
  • If you develop more severe symptoms including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, seek medication attention immediately. It is important to disclose any recent travel or contact with travelers

How to prevent the spread of COVID-19

If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect to have symptoms of COVID-19, follow the steps below to prevent the spread in your home and community.

  • If you are experiencing symptoms, immediately seek medical attention and notify a healthcare professional about your recent travel
  • Do not go out in public, i.e. work, school, public markets, church and avoid all public transportation
  • Do not travel if you are experiencing symptoms. Stay home except to seek medical attention
  • If you are experiencing symptoms and live with others in your home, separate yourself to another room and if possible, utilize a separate bathroom
  • Avoid sharing household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items with other people in your home. After using these items, you should wash them thoroughly with soap and water
  • If you have a facemask available, wear it while in the same room with other people and when you visit a healthcare provider
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, sleeve, or flexed elbow. Immediately throw away used tissues and wash your hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol Avoid contact with pets or other animals while sick
  • Immediately seek medical attention if your symptoms are getting worse, i.e. if you are having trouble breathing. Call our toll-free number 114 or inform your community health worker or nearest health facility ahead of time
Prevention steps for close contacts with an infected person

If you believe you have had close contact with someone who has confirmed COVID-19 or someone who is being evaluated for COVID-19, the following precautions should be taken:

  • It is important that you closely monitor your health status beginning from day one that you had contact with an infected person, up to 14 days of last contact with the person
  • Closely monitor for signs and symptoms including:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Associated symptoms may include sore throat, runny nose, body aches, or chills
  • If you develop any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately
    • Call our toll free number 114 or inform your community health worker or nearest the health facility and notify them that you have had close contact with someone who is confirmed to have, or currently being evaluated for COVID-19

Anyone who lives in affected areas or who has been in contact with travelers from affected areas is at risk. However, older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions including cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and diabetes, and cancer are at higher risk. For those at higher risk for COVID-19, it is important to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick.

  • Take precautions to keep space between yourself and others
  • In public, keep away from others who are sick and wash hands frequently
  • Avoid crowds or large gathering
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Stay home as much as possible to reduce your risk

Diagnostic testing is currently being conducted in public health laboratories with a test kit.

If you develop symptoms including fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread, stay home and contact your nearest health facility or call our toll-free number 114. A healthcare professional will determine if you have signs and symptoms COVID-10 and whether you should be tested.

There is no vaccine and no medicine currently available to prevent or treat COVID-19. Those affected are treated with supportive care to relieve symptoms.

If you are experiencing any signs and symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Content sources: CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WHO World Health Organization, March 2020