Health, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 guide: Everything from A to Z

Coronavirus transmitted by contact with respiratory droplets rather than through air and no vaccine is yet available

Yesim Sert Karaaslan   | 25.03.2020
COVID-19 guide: Everything from A to Z


Countries have been racing to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus since it was first detected in Wuhan, China in December and has been rapidly spreading throughout the world.

According to data from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, as of March 25, there were over 422,000 confirmed cases in 170 countries and regions and more than 18,900 deaths.

The countries hardest-hit by the virus are Italy, China, Spain, and Iran. In Turkey, 1,872 people have been diagnosed with the virus and 44 people have died.

Measures to fight coronaviruses include determining their transmission routes, identifying symptoms, diagnosis, creating vaccines, dispelling false information and using masks. Such practices are being implemented in Turkey, with the Ministry of Health issuing updates on the results.

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are defined as a large family of viruses that can cause disease in animals or humans.

In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections, up to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has caused deaths in many countries and is still active.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2), previously known as the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

The first cases were seen in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province in a large seafood and animal market. The virus spread from person to person and other cities and provinces in China and throughout the world.

The first confirmed case outside China was diagnosed on Jan. 13, 2020 -- a Chinese tourist in Thailand.

 What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms are fever, fatigue and dry cough. In some patients, there may be aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

Some 80% of those infected with the virus can recover without the need for special treatment. One in six people infected with COVID-19 become seriously ill and have difficulty breathing and 20% of cases require hospitalization.

The virus can cause fatal consequences for the elderly and those with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Medical support must be provided for those who have difficulty breathing, fever and coughing. The fatality rate for people over 60 is much higher than for younger adults and children.

How is the virus spreading?

The disease can be transmitted from person to person through small respiratory droplets that spread when someone with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.

The droplets fall on objects and surfaces around the person and the virus can infect someone when they rub their eyes or touch their nose or mouth after touching the contaminated objects or surfaces.

Is the virus transmitted by air?

Scientific studies to date show that COVID-19 is transmitted by respiratory droplets rather than air.

Are antibiotics effective in the prevention and treatment of the disease?

Antibiotics are not effective because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and antibiotics do not work on viruses.

Is there a medicine or vaccine to treat or prevent the disease?

To date, there are no vaccines or specific antiviral drugs to prevent or treat COVID-19. Studies on drug and vaccine development are underway and possible vaccines and some specific drugs are being tested.

Should a mask be worn for protection?

A mask should be worn if someone infected with COVID-19 or a virus is being cared for. Disposable face masks should be used only once.

How should the mask be worn and removed?

Masks should only be used by healthcare professionals, caregivers and people with respiratory symptoms, such as fever and cough.

Before touching the mask, the hands should be cleaned with alcohol-based sprays or soap and water. The mask should be checked for any kind of hole.

Make sure the correct side of the mask (colored part) is facing out. The mask should be placed on the face and the metal strip or hard edge of the mask should be adjusted according to the shape of the nose.

The bottom of the mask should be pulled down and the mouth and chin should be covered. The mask should be removed after use. In order not to touch the potentially contaminated surfaces of the mask, the mask should be removed from the face with the elastic rings that are worn behind the ears. The mask should be disposed of in a closed container after use.

Does the virus live on surfaces?

According to preliminary information from scientific studies, the virus can remain on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. The time can vary depending on the type of surface, ambient temperature or humidity.

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

A new type of coronavirus test is being conducted with a local diagnostic kit that produces comprehensive results in 60-90 minutes as well as a rapid diagnostic kit that can give results in 15 minutes.

Is it possible to prevent the spread of coronavirus with simple measures?

It is necessary to comply with 14 rules to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

What are the 14 rules?

1- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

2- Cover your mouth and nose with disposable wipes during coughing and sneezing. If there are no wipes, use the inside of the elbow.

3- Do not touch your eyes, mouth and nose with your hands.

4- Keep at least two meters (six feet) away from people who show symptoms of colds.

5- Cancel or postpone your travels abroad.

6- Spend the first 14 days at home when you return from abroad and do not accept visitors.

7- Ventilate your environment frequently.

8- Clean frequently used surfaces such as door handles, fixtures and sinks with water and detergent every day.

9- Do not share your personal belongings such as towels.

10- Wash your clothes at 60-90 degrees with normal detergent.

11- Avoid physical contacts such as handshaking and hugging.

12- For a strong immune system, drink plenty of fluids, maintain a balanced diet and pay attention to your sleep patterns.

13- If you have cold symptoms, avoid contact with the elderly and people with chronic diseases and do not go out without wearing a mask.

14- If you have fever, cough and shortness of breath, go to a health facility wearing a mask.

False information on virus

Experts highlight the importance of obtaining information about the virus from the right sources. The following is a list of the most common misconceptions:

FALSE: Every COVID-19 case is severe and fatal.

TRUE: In the course of the disease, 10%-15% of severe respiratory failure, kidney failure and multiple organ failure can be seen, resulting in 2%-5% deaths, while 80% of the disease cases pass mild.

FALSE: A mask is enough to protect someone from getting COVID-19

TRUE: A mask does not adequately protect someone from catching the virus. Only if a person is sick should they wear a mask, to prevent the virus from spreading through respiratory droplets. Healthy people do not need to wear a mask. The most important thing is keeping one’s hands clean. Hands should be kept as clean as possible and should not be used to touch one’s eyes, nose and mouth.

FALSE: Hand sanitizers solve every problem.

TRUE: Most of the so-called antiseptic, sanitizer and germicidal agents marketed under different names in the market will not keep hands clean more than soap and water. Washing your hands carefully by rubbing them thoroughly with plenty of soapy water will be sufficient for protection. In cases where water and soap cannot be accessed, a cologne or hand sanitizer with a 70% or more organic alcohol base can be used.Frequent hand cleaning can dry out the skin and cause illnesses such as eczema, so hands should be moisturized several times a day.

FALSE: Rinsing the nose with saltwater or gargling saltwater or vinegar prevents infection from the virus.

TRUE: There is no scientific data on this subject. If the salt rate of saltwater is high, it may damage upper respiratory tract cells. The mucus layer, which protects the respiratory system from viral infections or external factors and prevents bacteria and viruses from attaching to respiratory cells, may also be damaged.

FALSE: Drinking hot drinks will kill the virus.

TRUE: Extremely hot drinks burn the mouth-throat area and destroy the protective epithelial layer as well as preventive immune secretions, so they can do more harm than good.

FALSE: It is sufficient to wipe infected surfaces with water or a wet wipe.

TRUE: Surfaces should be cleaned with diluted bleach or detergent. Simple detergents are just as effective as bleach.

FALSE: Eating garlic and onions prevents coronavirus infections.

TRUE: Garlic and onions are healthy foods, but no evidence consuming them will safeguard you against the coronavirus.

FALSE: Eating a lot of pickles will boost your immune system and protect it from the disease.

TRUE: It is true that homemade pickles will give the immune system some support thanks to the probiotics they contain. However, due to excessive salt consumption, excessive pickle consumption can cause changes in the body's fluid electrolyte balances and also hypertension.

FALSE: Some soups boost the immune system.

TRUE: No food has been shown to specifically boost the immune system. The important thing is healthy and balanced eating habits.

FALSE: Non-alcoholic cologne can be used as a hand sanitizer.

TRUE: For a liquid to be used as a disinfectant, it must have a minimum of 70% alcohol content. When proper hand antiseptic is not available, any kind of cologne containing between 80%-90% alcohol can also be used for hand hygiene and virus protection.

FALSE: The virus will disappear as the weather gets warmer.

TRUE: Hot air does not kill the virus directly. However, with the warming of the weather, people do not spend a long time in closed and stuffy environments and houses and workplaces are better ventilated, thus reducing the possibility of transmission of viruses that infect the respiratory tract. Secondly, due to the increasing temperature, the virus can stay alive for a shorter period.

FALSE: COVID-19 affects only the elderly.

TRUE: Adults of all ages can contract COVID-19. However, old people are more vulnerable, especially over the age of 60.

FALSE: COVID-19 is a lab-made virus.

TRUE: COVID-19 was not produced in a laboratory and spread through society as a result of natural changes in microorganisms. Medical experts had been expecting epidemics of new viruses originating in Southeast Asia. Dense human populations, large numbers of wide varieties of animals and close contact between animals and humans in this region increases the risk of virus transformation.

FALSE: A vaccine has been developed against the coronavirus but has yet to be released.

TRUE: No vaccine exists so far to protect against the virus.

FALSE: Antibiotics are necessary for treating COVID-19.

TRUE: COVID-19 is a viral disease and antibiotics do not work against viruses.

FALSE: COVID-19 can also spread to humans from domestic animals.

TRUE: No such case of infection has been reported so far.

FALSE: A document on new measures taken against the coronavirus spread through social media labeled “secret”.

TRUE: The document does not reflect the truth. Authorities inform the society about recent and upcoming measures against the coronavirus through official statements

FALSE: Eating fruit and vegetables with their shells increases the risk of coronavirus.

TRUE: There is currently no evidence that suggests eating fruit and vegetables with their shells increase the risk of infection from the coronavirus.

FALSE: Clothes must be disinfected after going out to protect against COVID-19.

TRUE: There is no preventive and rational aspect of disinfecting clothes after going out.

FALSE: It is not possible to be protected from the virus.

TRUE: It is possible to be protected from the virus if following the rules.

FALSE: Surgical and normal masks can be reused after being washed.

TRUE: Surgical masks should not be worn for more than 3 to 4 hours, and when they are dirty and moist, they should be changed. Also, when masks are washed, they lose their protective function.

FALSE: In order to build up the body’s resistance to disease, healthy people should also take immune-boosting supplements and vitamins as soon as possible.

TRUE: Healthy people do not need to take any additional supplements. It is enough to sleep, maintain a balanced diet and regular physical exercise.

What happened in Turkey?

On Jan. 6, the Turkish Ministry of Health’s General Directorate of Public Health established an operation center manned by 15 people and all developments in the world related to the coronavirus are followed in real-time.

On Jan. 10, the Coronavirus Science Board was established within the Ministry of Health. The members of the board, including academicians from 12 universities, Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YOK) and the Health Ministry, held its first meeting.

On Jan. 14, the first version of the 2019-nCoV Disease Guide was prepared. The guide defined general information about the infection, case definition and case management, infection control and isolation, patient care and treatment, plus the actions that should be taken by those who will travel to the countries where there are cases.

On Jan. 16, the General Directorate of Public Health decided to hold a 2019-nCoV Risk Assessment meeting.

On Jan. 20, a screening process began for all passengers from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S., Russia and Vietnam plus Wuhan, China.

On Jan. 21, the first sample was taken from a suspected case in Turkey.

On Jan. 24, all passengers coming from China flights were scanned with thermal cameras.

On Jan. 27, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a travel warning advising citizens not to travel to China unless necessary, and if they do, they should stay away from regions where cases are high, especially Hubei province.

On Jan. 28, the Science Board meeting was held in which the 2019-nCoV Guide was updated and a ‘frequently asked questions and answers’ section was prepared.

On Jan. 29, a letter was sent to the General Directorate of State Airports Authority regarding the measures to be taken for flights from risky areas.

On Jan. 30, the 2019-nCoV Guide was updated and re-released.

On Jan. 31, a Turkish Armed Forces cargo plane set off from Ankara to Wuhan, China to bring Turkish citizens home in cooperation with the ministries of foreign affairs and defense.

On Feb. 1, the evacuation plane took off from Wuhan to Ankara. A total of 42 passengers were on board. None of the passengers showed any signs of illness in the health check.

Temperature scans by thermal cameras were expanded. For all passengers coming from China, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea to Turkey, an announcement was made and they were scanned by thermal cameras.

The plane carrying citizens evacuated from China returned to Turkey. A total of 61 people, including 42 passengers (32 Turkish, six Azerbaijani, three Georgian and one Albanian) and crew, a technical team and health personnel were placed under quarantine at Dr. Zekai Tahir Burak Hospital in the capital Ankara.

On Feb. 2, the Science Board met. The presentation of the 2019-nCoV Disease Guide was prepared and sent for publication on the website. An informatory announcement was sent to the Council of Higher Education (YOK) and the Ministry of National Education for students and employees from China.

On Feb. 3, Turkey announced that all flights from China had been halted.

On Feb. 7, all animal imports from China were temporarily suspended.

On Feb. 8, the 10th day since the Wuhan passengers returned to Turkey, their negative third test results were shared with the public.

On Feb. 12, Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told parliament that a diagnostic kit developed by Turkey to identify coronavirus cases would be sold abroad.

On Feb. 19, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca received China's ambassador to Turkey Deng Li.

On Feb. 21, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki spoke over the phone on COVID-19 cases in Iran.

On Feb. 23, all road and rail crossings, as well as flights from Iran to Turkey, were halted temporarily.

On Feb. 24, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca spoke with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ogtay Shiraliyev. Koca also received Iran’s ambassador to Turkey.

On Feb. 25, Turkish Airlines carried out a flight from Tehran flight that eventually landed in the capital Ankara. All 132 passengers and cabin crew were taken to Dr. Zekai Tahir Burak Hospital and Bilkent City Hospital for their quarantine process after check-ups.

On Feb. 27, Turkey’s health minister visited the region to inspect measures taken at the border crossings of Agri, Van, Hakkari and Igdir. Field hospitals were established at eight border gates with Iran, Iraq and Georgia.

On Feb. 29, all flights to and from China, Iran, Iraq, South Korea and Italy were suspended.

On March 2, as part of new precautions on the Umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, measures including medical examinations were announced to the public.

On March 3, people were informed on paying attention to a 14-day self-quarantine rule after returning from Umrah.

On March 10, Turkey’s health minister informed parliament about coronavirus measures.

On March 11, Turkey’s health minister confirmed the country’s first positive novel coronavirus case. No details on the case were shared with the public.
Turkey’s health, commerce and culture ministers held a joint press conference. The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic.

On March 12, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a summit in which all ministers attended and measures against the coronavirus outbreak were decided.

It was decided that all sports competitions will be played without spectators until the end of April and measures taken on education were announced. All the schools were closed.

On March 13, Turkey’s health minister announced the second case of COVID-19 in Turkey. He said the individual was a relative of the first case.

On March 14, flights to Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands were suspended until April 17.

On March 14, Turkey and Azerbaijan’s presidents in a phone call decided to temporarily suspend all road and air transportation between the countries. Turkey and Georgia temporarily closed the Sarp border crossing to passengers as of Sunday. Turkey confirmed its sixth coronavirus case.

On March 15, all passengers returning from the Umrah pilgrimage underwent medical screenings and suspected cases were taken to hospitals. All passengers were later sent to student dormitories in Ankara and Konya provinces for a 14-day quarantine period.

Turkey announced that nationals returning from European countries will undergo a 14-day quarantine process.Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter that 12 more people have been diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 18.

On March 16, annual leaves for health workers were suspended until further notice.
Turkey's top religious authority suspended all congregational prayers in mosques, including traditional Friday prayers, to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry suspended all art activities until the end of April.Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan had a meeting with the Science Board.Prison visits were suspended.Hotline 184 on the coronavirus was established.

On March 16, Turkey suspended flights to six more countries including the U.K, Saudi Arabia and Ireland, bringing the total to 20.Turkey said rapid test kits will be sent to all medical institutions. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 29 more people have been diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total number in Turkey to 47.

On March 17, Turkey confirmed its first death from the coronavirus. A patient, 89, died while 51 additional cases were diagnosed, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at a news conference. With the new figures, the number of confirmed cases rose to 98.

On March 18, Turkey confirmed its second death from coronavirus. “We have lost a 61-year-old male patient. I wish Allah's mercy upon him,” said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca in a tweet.

Meanwhile, 93 new cases were confirmed, raising the tally to 191 in the country, he said.

On March 19, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca confirmed the fourth death from the coronavirus. He added that 168 out of 1,981 tests conducted in the past 24 hours had come back positive, bringing the total number of cases to 359 from 191.

On March 20, Turkey confirmed five more deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to nine with 311 new cases.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 311 out of 3,656 tests conducted on suspected cases in the last 24 hours had come back positive, bringing the total number of patients to 670, up from 359.

On March 21, Turkey confirmed 12 more deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 21.
In the last 24 hours, 2,953 tests have been conducted on people suspected of being infected with the virus, and 277 of them tested positive, carrying the tally of infections to 947, up from 670.

On March 22, Turkey confirmed nine more deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the total fatalities to 30. More than 20,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far on people suspected of being infected with the virus and 289 people tested positive in the last 24 hours, carrying the tally of infections to 1,236, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

On March 23, Turkey confirmed seven more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 37. More than 20,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out so far on people suspected of contracting the virus and 293 tested positive in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally of infections to 1,529, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

On March 24, Turkey confirmed seven more deaths from coronavirus on late Tuesday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 44. A total of 3,952 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the last 24 hours on people suspected of contracting the virus, and 343 tested positive, bringing the tally of infections to 1,872, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

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