What is Coronavirus (Covid-19)?

Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a large family of viruses that cause symptoms ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not yet been identified in humans.

Symptoms range from moderate to severe respiratory illness with fever, dry cough and breathing difficulties. Elderly people - especially those over 65 years of age - and people with pre-existing chronic conditions appear to be more vulnerable to severe symptoms.

The incubation period (the time between infection and the first symptoms) is up to 14 days, and is usually shorter (2-12 days).

How does it spread?

Coronavirus is spread from person to person through small droplets caused by coughing or sneezing. Through these droplets, the virus gets into the air, on objects and surfaces. The virus can infect anyone who inhales these droplets or puts them in their mouth, nose or eyes through their hands. There is no evidence that contamination occurs through the skin. The risk of contamination can be reduced by keeping a distance of more than one metre from sick people, by keeping facial contact to a minimum and by ensuring good hand hygiene.


What are the symptoms?

You may be suffering from COVID-19

if you have at least one of the following symptoms of acute onset, with no other obvious cause :

  • cough
  • respiratory discomfort
  • chest pain
  • loss of taste or smell


if you have two or more of the following symptoms without any other obvious cause :

  • fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • fatigue
  • rhinitis
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • anorexia
  • watery diarrhea
  • acute confusion
  • sudden drop


if you notice a worsening of chronic respiratory symptoms (asthma, chronic cough or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) without any other obvious cause.

What is the best way to prevent illness?

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or a hand sanitizer.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or with a tissue. Throw away the tissue immediately and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose.

These general hygiene measures are summarized in this poster and summarized in a WHO video .

You can also help slow the spread of the virus with the following tips:

  • Avoid holding hands, kissing or hugging when greeting someone.
  • Pay attention to risk groups (people over 65 years old, diabetics, people with heart, lung or kidney disease, immunosuppressed people, ...).
  • Children do not become seriously ill from the coronavirus, but can easily spread it. Contact between children and the elderly is therefore not recommended.
  • Try to keep your distance in high-traffic areas.
  • Avoid contact with visibly ill people or keep a sufficient distance.

What is a possible case?

A possible case of COVID-19 is a person with:

  • at least one of the following major symptoms of acute onset with no other obvious cause: cough; dyspnea; chest pain; anosmia or dysgeusia;


  • at least two of the following minor symptoms with no other obvious cause: fever; muscle aches; fatigue; rhinitis; sore throat; headache; anorexia; watery diarrhea; acute confusion; sudden fall;


  • an aggravation of chronic respiratory symptoms (COPD, asthma, chronic cough...), without any other obvious cause.

Can I be contaminated through food?

To date, food has not been identified as a likely source or route of transmission of the virus. Therefore, based on current knowledge, the likelihood of a consumer becoming contaminated with Covid-19 through food is very low and unproven. In any case, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) reminds professionals that compliance with good hygiene practices is essential and prevents most contaminations :

  • Prepare food separately, especially when handling raw meat,
  • Wash food preparation surfaces, especially after handling raw meat, with soap and hot water,
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water between handling,
  • Cook any raw meat sufficiently (70°C through for at least 2 minutes),
  • Avoid preparing food when you are sick.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating Covid-19?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only against bacterial infections. Because Covid-19 is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective. They should not be used to prevent or treat Covid-19. Antibiotics should only be used when prescribed by a doctor to treat a bacterial infection.

Is there a vaccine, medication or treatment for Covid-19?

Affected individuals should receive care to relieve symptoms. People who are seriously ill must be hospitalized. Most patients recover with supportive care. Since the beginning of the pandemic, several vaccines and some specific treatments are being studied and tested in clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat VIDOC-19.

Within the framework of the European Union vaccination campaign, and more specifically in Belgium, four vaccines have so far been selected and are starting to be administered. These are the Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines. The step-by-step plan for vaccination in Belgium according to the different possible vaccination sites can be consulted here https://d34j62pglfm3rr.cloudfront.net/downloads/COVID19_VACCINATIESCHEMA_FR.jpg 

Most of the already approved vaccines require two doses, which must be administered several weeks apart (3 weeks apart for the Pfizer vaccine, and between 4 and 12 weeks apart for the others). The J&J vaccine is the only single-dose vaccine.

After vaccination, it takes 10-14 days for the body to start producing antibodies. Therefore, if you are exposed to the virus during this period, your immune system will not yet be sufficiently stimulated by the vaccine and you may still be infected. Two weeks after the first vaccination, your resistance will be about 90%, rising to 95% after the second dose. In the meantime, it is very important that you continue to observe the protective measures in place (social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands, ventilating rooms regularly, etc.).


What are the official reference sites?

A call center is available to answer your questions: 0800/14.689



updated on 24/03/2021

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