What is SARS-CoV-2? What is COVID-19?
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the name given to the 2019 novel coronavirus. COVID-19 is the name given to the disease associated with the virus. SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
While the viruses that cause both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are transmitted from person-to-person and may cause similar symptoms, the two viruses are very different and do not behave in the same way.
There is not enough epidemiological information at this time to determine how easily this virus spreads between people, but it is currently estimated that, on average, one infected person will infect between two and three other people.
The virus seems to be transmitted mainly via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, or when people interact with each other for some time in close proximity (usually less than one metre). These droplets can then be inhaled, or they can land on surfaces that others may come into contact with, who can then get infected when they touch their nose, mouth or eyes. The virus can survive on different surfaces from several hours (copper, cardboard) up to a few days (plastic and stainless steel). However, the amount of viable virus declines over time and may not always be present in sufficient numbers to cause infection.
The incubation period for COVID-19 is currently estimated to be between one and 14 days. The infectious period is now estimated to last for 7-12 days in moderate cases and up to two weeks on average in severe cases.
The virus enters your body via your eyes, nose and/or mouth, so it is important to avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
Washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or cleaning hands thoroughly with alcohol-based solutions, gels or tissues is recommended in all settings. It is also recommended to stay two metres or more away from people infected with COVID-19 who are showing symptoms, to reduce the risk of infection through respiratory droplets.
A recent study published by The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reported that the causal agent of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is able to persist for up to 24 hours on cardboard, in experimental settings (e.g. controlled relative humidity and temperature). In practice however there is no evidence of the infection ever being transmitted through contaminated packages that are exposed to different environmental conditions and temperatures.
There has been no report of transmission of COVID-19 via food, and therefore there is no evidence that food items imported into the European Union in accordance with the applicable animal and public health regulations pose a risk for the health of EU citizens in relation to COVID-19. The main mode of transmission is from person to person.