Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - updated by WHO
Here are some Q&As on COVID-19 that people should know.
Q: When should I get a test for COVID-19?
A: Anyone with symptoms should be tested, wherever possible. People who do not have symptoms but have had close contact with someone who is, or may be, infected may also consider testing – check with your local health guidelines. While a person is waiting for test results, they should remain isolated from others. Where testing capacity is limited, tests should first be done for those at higher risk of infection, such as health workers, and those at higher risk of severe illness such as older people, especially those living in seniors’ residences or long-term care facilities.
Q: What test should I get if I have COVID-19?
A: In most situations, a molecular test is used to detect SARS-CoV-2 and confirm COVID-19. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the most commonly used molecular test. Samples are collected from the nose and/or throat with a swab. Molecular tests detect virus in the sample by amplifying viral genetic material to detectable levels. For this reason, a molecular test is used to confirm an active infection, usually within a few days of exposure and around the time that symptoms may begin.
Q: What about rapid tests?
A: Rapid tests (sometimes known as a rapid diagnostic test – RDT) detect viral proteins (known as antigens). Samples are collected from the nose and/or throat with a swab. These tests are cheaper than PCR and will offer results more quickly, although they are generally less accurate. We are still learning about how well they perform and when to use them.
Q: I want to find out if I had COVID-19 in the past, what test should I take?
A: Antibody tests can tell us whether someone has had an infection in the past, even if they have not had symptoms. Also known as serological tests and usually done on a blood sample, these tests detect antibodies produced in response to an infection. In most people, antibodies start to develop after days to weeks and can indicate if a person has had recent (IgM type antibodies) or past infection (IgG type). Antibody tests cannot be used to diagnose COVID-19 in the early stages of infection or disease. They also cannot alone confirm immunity or duration of protection from reinfection.
Q: Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
A:Not yet. Many potential vaccines for COVID-19 are being studied, and several large clinical trials may report results later this year. If a vaccine is proven safe and effective, it must be approved by national regulators, manufactured, and distributed. WHO is working with partners around the world to help coordinate key steps in this process. WHO is working through the ACT-Accelerator to facilitate equitable access to a safe and effective vaccine for the billions of people who will need it, once it is available. More information about COVID-19 vaccine development is available here.
Q: Are there treatments for COVID-19?
A: Scientists around the world are working to find and develop treatments for COVID-19.
Optimal supportive care includes oxygen for severely ill patients and those who are at risk for severe disease and more advanced respiratory support such as ventilation for patients who are critically ill.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid that can help reduce the length of time on a ventilator and save lives of patients with severe and critical illness. Read our dexamethasone Q&A for more information.
Results from the WHO’s Solidarity Trial indicated that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients.
Hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to offer any benefit for treatment of COVID-19. Read our hydroxychloroquine Q&A for more information.
WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop treatments for COVID-19 and will continue to provide new information as it becomes available.
Q: Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?
A: Antibiotics do not work against viruses; they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
In hospitals, physicians will sometimes use antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections which can be a complication of COVID-19 in severely ill patients. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
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