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Everything you need to know about the coronavirus (COVID-19)

Alles was Du über den Coronavirus (COVID-19) wissen musst

At the beginning of 2020, a new type of virus has begun to dominate headlines around the world due to its unexpected speed of spread.

From its origin in a market in Wuhan, China in December 2019 to countries as far away as the United States of America, the virus, whose official name is COVID-19, has infected thousands of people with a rising death toll of over 7,000 (1).

However, despite the global panic spreading like wildfire in the media, you are unlikely to contract COVID-19 unless you come into contact with someone who has been in one of the outbreak areas.

Let's bust the myth. Read on to find out how the coronavirus spreads, how it is similar to and different from other coronaviruses and how you can prevent passing this virus on to others if you suspect you have been infected.

This link will give you the latest figures on people infected with coronavirus:

What are the symptoms?

Doctors and scientists are learning something new about this virus every day. As far as is known so far, it may well be that the virus does not initially cause any symptoms after infection. It is quite possible to carry this virus for anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks before any symptoms become noticeable (2).

Some symptoms specifically associated with the 2019 coronavirus are

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough that gets worse over time
  • Mild fever at first that gets worse over time

The full list of symptoms is still under investigation.

When should you seek urgent help?

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and have been to an area such as China or northern Italy within the last 14 days where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days, then you should call a doctor immediately.

COVID-19 vs. the flu

The 2019 coronavirus is significantly more deadly than normal flu.

An estimated 0.06 to 0.1 percent of all people who contracted influenza in the U.S. during the 2019-2020 flu season died from the disease (3), while about 2 percent of people diagnosed with the 2019 coronavirus died (4).

Here are some common flu symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • fever
  • headache
  • exhaustion
  • chills
  • aching limbs

What exactly are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means that they developed in animals before jumping to humans.

For the virus to be transmitted from animals to humans, a person must come into close contact with an animal that carries the virus.

Once the virus has developed in humans, the coronavirus can spread from person to person via droplet infection. Droplet infection is the technical name for spreading via the moist stuff that moves through the air when you cough or sneeze.

The viral material is in these droplets and can be inhaled through the respiratory tract into the windpipe and lungs, where the virus can lead to infection.

The 2019 coronavirus has not yet been linked to a specific animal. However, scientists believe that this virus could have been transmitted from bats to other animals - either snakes or other pangolins - and jumped from these to humans (5).

This transmission probably took place at a food market in China.

Who is at increased risk?

You are at increased risk of contracting this virus if you come into contact with someone who is carrying the virus, especially if you come into contact with their saliva or are near them when they sneeze or cough.

Washing your hands and sanitizing surfaces can help reduce your risk of contracting this or other viruses.

Older men seem to be particularly susceptible to this virus. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that the average age of people who tested positive for this variant of the coronavirus was around 45 years and that over two thirds of these people were men (6).

How is coronavirus diagnosed?

The 2019 coronavirus can be detected similarly to other viral infections using blood, saliva or tissue samples.

Contact your doctor immediately if you think you have a coronavirus infection, especially if you have been in China or another country with an increased infection rate in the last 14 days. Your doctor will contact the relevant authorities to decide whether a test for this virus may be necessary.

For this test, either a blood sample will be taken or a small sample of your saliva or discharge from the respiratory tract in your nose or throat will be taken using a piece of absorbent cotton.

This sample is then sent to a laboratory to confirm the presence of viral material or antibodies against the virus.

What treatments are available?

There is currently no treatment specifically approved for 2019 and no cure for infection, although treatments and vaccines are in development. Instead, treatment focuses on controlling symptoms as the disease progresses.

Seek help immediately if you think you have COVID-19. Your doctor will recommend treatment for any symptoms or complications that may arise.

Vaccines or treatments are available for other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS (7, 8). Some treatment routes for these and similar viruses include:

  • Antiviral or retroviral medications
  • Respiratory support through artificial respiration
  • Steroids to reduce swelling of the lungs
  • Transfusions of blood plasma

What are possible complications of COVID-19?

The most serious complication of COVID-19 is a type of pneumonia also known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus-infected Pneumonia (NCIP).

Results from a 2020 study of 138 patients admitted to a hospital in Wuhan, China, with this type of pneumonia showed that 26 percent of these patients suffered from severe forms of the disease and had to be treated in the intensive care unit (9).

About 4.3 percent of the patients who had to be treated in the ICU died from this type of pneumonia.

To date, NCIP is the only complication specifically associated with COVID-19. However, scientists have also observed the following complications in people who have contracted the coronavirus

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Cardiovascular shock
  • Serious pain (myalgia)
  • Exhaustion
  • Damage to the heart muscle or heart attack

How can you prevent a corona infection?

The best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to avoid or minimize contact with people who show symptoms of the virus or who have been in an area where corona infections have occurred in the last 14 days.

The next best thing you can do is to maintain good hygiene to prevent viruses or bacteria from spreading:

  • Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds
  • Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are dirty
  • Do not leave the house if you feel ill or show cold or flu symptoms
  • Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow if you sneeze or cough. Throw used tissues into a closed waste garbage can immediately.
  • Keep all objects that you touch frequently clean. Use disinfectant on objects such as telephones, computers, dishes, door handles or other utensils.

Other types of coronavirus

A coronavirus gets its name from its appearance under the microscope.

The word corona means "crown" and on closer inspection, the round virus has a "crown" of proteins called pelomeres pointing in all directions from its center. These proteins help the virus to find out where it can infect its host.

The disease known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was linked to a highly infectious coronavirus at the beginning of the 21st century. The SARS virus has been brought under control and is successfully treatable.


This is not the first time a coronavirus has made headlines - the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003 was also caused by a coronavirus.

As with the 2019 coronavirus, the SARS virus was first detected in animals before spreading to humans.

It is believed that SARS originated in bats and was then transmitted to other animals and through them to humans (10).

Once transmitted to humans, the SARS virus began to spread rapidly among humans.

What makes the COVID-19 virus so newsworthy is the fact that no cure has yet been developed that can help prevent rapid human-to-human transmission of the virus. SARS has been successfully contained and treated.

What are the prospects?

The most important thing is not to panic. You do not need to wear a mask or quarantine as long as you have not been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Following simple hygiene guidelines can help prevent the spread of this and other viruses.

The 2019 coronavirus may seem scary and frightening when you read the daily news about deaths, quarantine and travel restrictions. But in context, the coronavirus is less widespread than more common and threatening viral diseases such as influenza.

Stay calm and follow your doctor's instructions if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus so that you can recover and prevent further spread of the virus.

What foods and supplements can you use to support your immune system and help you cope better with viruses and other illnesses?

Even though there is no vaccination against the coronavirus yet, you can do something to help your body better protect itself against all types of viruses and infections and cope better with such infections.

Certain foods and supplements can help keep your immune system strong. Here is a list of some of the most effective of these foods.

Citrus fruits and other sources of vitamin C

Most people turn to vitamin C when they have a cold. This is because vitamin C helps to strengthen your immune system. However, it makes more sense to make sure you have a sufficient vitamin C intake before the onset of an infectious disease. Vitamin C is believed to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections.

Popular sources of vitamin C include grapefruit, oranges, mandarins, lemons and limes as well as vitamin tablets.

As your body cannot produce or store vitamin C, you need to consume vitamin C daily for good health.

Red peppers

If you think that citrus fruits are the best sources of vitamin C, you're wrong. Red peppers contain on average twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits and are also rich in beta-carotene, which helps to keep eyes and skin healthy.


Broccoli is overloaded with vitamins and minerals. Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables thanks to its vitamin A, C and E content, as well as other antioxidants and fiber. To protect these ingredients, broccoli should be cooked for as short a time as possible or, even better, eaten raw.


Garlic gives many dishes their special flavor and is also a must for good health. Early civilizations recognized the value of garlic in fighting infections. The immune system-boosting effects of garlic appear to stem from its high content of sulphur-containing compounds such as allicin.


Ginger is another ingredient that can help fight infectious diseases. Ginger can reduce inflammation, which can help treat sore throats and other inflammatory conditions.


Spinach made it onto the list as it is rich in vitamin C and packed with numerous other antioxidants such as beta-carotene, which can improve immune system function. Like broccoli, spinach should only be cooked briefly or eaten raw as a salad, although light cooking can increase the vitamin A content and release other nutrients from being bound to oxalic acid.

Yogurt / probiotics & prebiotics / vitamin D

Choose yogurt that contains live probiotic cultures. These cultures, like probiotic bacteria from other sources such as supplements, can stimulate immune system function. The effect of probiotic bacteria can be enhanced by prebiotics, which serve as food for these bacteria.

Yogurt can also be a good source of vitamin D if it is vitamin D-fortified yogurt. Vitamin D helps to regulate the immune system.

Almonds / Vitamin E

When it comes to the prevention of infectious diseases such as colds and flu, vitamin C is the number one source, but vitamin E also plays a key role in the functioning of the immune system.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that fat is needed for its absorption. Nuts such as almonds are rich in vitamin E and healthy fats. Half a cup of peeled almonds provides about 100% of the daily requirement of vitamin E.

Turmeric / Curcumin

Turmeric is an ingredient in curry, but has also been used for centuries, if not millennia, as an anti-inflammatory and health-promoting natural remedy that can boost and improve immune function.

Green tea

Green tea is packed with flavonoids - a type of antioxidant. Green tea is particularly notable for its high content of epigallocatechin gallate - EGCG for short - which has pronounced antioxidant effects. EGCG has also been shown to boost immune function. During the fermentation of tea, a large proportion of the EGCG contained in the tea leaves is destroyed, whereas green tea contains the full amount of EGCG.

Green tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine, which supports the production of germ-killing compounds in the T-cells of the immune system.


Papaya is another fruit that is packed with vitamin C. A single papaya provides 225 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin C. Papaya is also rich in papain, a digestive enzyme that has anti-inflammatory effects and promotes immune system function.

Papaya is also rich in potassium, B vitamins and folate, which have a positive effect on general health.

Poultry / Vitamin B6

When you're sick, chicken broth is more than a feel-good food with a placebo effect. It helps relieve cold symptoms and can also help prevent colds and other infectious diseases in the first place.

Poultry is rich in vitamin B 6 and just 100 grams of chicken or turkey provides 40 to 50 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6 is an important player in many important chemical reactions in the body and is crucial for the formation of red blood cells. Chicken broth, which contains chicken bones, provides gelatin, chondroitin and other nutrients that can boost health and the immune system.

Sunflower seeds / magnesium and vitamin E

Sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin B6, which are important for the functioning of the immune system.

Vitamin E is important for regulating and maintaining the function of the immune system and magnesium also plays more than just a role in the proper functioning of the immune system.

Crustaceans / Zinc

Crustaceans may not be the first thing you think of when you want to improve the function of your immune system, but a number of crustaceans are packed with zinc.

Zinc - unfairly - doesn't get as much attention as other vitamins and minerals, but without adequate amounts of zinc, the body's immune cells can't function as they should.

Crustaceans that are rich in zinc include:

  • Crabs
  • prawns
  • lobster
  • mussels

For zinc, the recommended daily intake, which is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women, should not be greatly exceeded in the long term, as too much zinc can have a negative effect on immune function.


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